First, second and third worlds: The Digital divide

The 2011 G8 summit presented the first quantitative assessment of the Internet’s economic impact, the in-depth analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute in their Internet matters report,  showed that the internet accounts for the largest percentage of GDP in many developed countries, accounting for 21% of GDP growth for the past five years, a 10 % increase over the 15 years prior; it became clear that ‘efforts must be taken by national governments and states to create infrastructure that would meet the needs of a global digital economy’ (Mutula 2011, p. 17).

Fast forward three years,  and the UN’s International Telecommunication Union report is released which states, that over 40 percent of the global population is online (42.3 % World Internet Penetration rate in 2014), the report estimating that this would increase to 60 percent in the next 10 years. While this view of a ‘global digital village’ is one that many leaders aspire to become reality, however most leaders including Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, will agree that there are barriers to this village that need to be broken, before we can all hold hands and sing Kumbaya around the fire. While many countries are locally improving acess and cost to these services (Australia started the NBN rollout) Zuckerberg through his Internet.org program seeks to find a global solution.

It was Internt.org’s Neesha video on Youtube (below) that first opened by eyes to the possibility of what Zuckerberg defines as the ‘global knowledge economy’(GKE), the knowledge economy is unique as it doesn’t focus on individual financial or resource gains of one country but encourages worldwide prosperity through global sharing and access to the internet (FACEBOOK PDF).

Facebook’s Internet.org campaign highlights two main barriers to achieving an global knowledge economy, firstly the lack of developed infrastructure and lastly the cost of connection, the global rankings for both are depicted in the two tables below.

131101_map-chart2b

Screenshot (169)

The main idea behind the campaign lies in the notion that access to the internet is a human right, and that efforts should be taken to avoid social exclusion of developing countries, where 4.6 billion people are yet to be connected, bridging this ‘digital divide’ is something that both UNESCO and the UN agree should be prioritized moving forward as Human development and Digital access go hand in hand.

Digital and Human development Index

The irony is that while the internet like the telegraph and telephone was suppose to bring us closer and improve our daily lives, it has just become another channel or format for richer and more powerful empires to control; another tool for their belt.  While the idea of a global digital village is fun to imagine, the truth is that there will always be inequality and exclusion, as one group will always be late to join the race or never join the race at all. Then again who knows, maybe this time we will learn from our mistake….. or maybe not.

Refrences

Birstall, S. A & W.F, 2011, Geography Matters: Mapping Human Development and Digital access, First Monday, issue 10, vol10, p. 22 -23

Mutula , S.M 2011, Introduction, in Globalisation of the Digital Economy, IGI Global, University of Botswana, pp. 17 – 25

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