The digital age has improved quality of life for many people around the world. The digital era has become a great asset to today’s world and has helped with business, community and even the economy. However, as prevalent as technology has become, there are still many countries that live with little or no access to technology; limited access means limited benefits. Among those countries living in what is called digital poverty, they are, more often than not, developing nations. So, what is digital poverty exactly and how does it affect the economy?
“Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access or due to the lack of skills,” said Thierry Geiger, co-editor of the Global Information Technology Report. “It is really a form of poverty because without digital access, without digital skills, you cannot tap into the huge potential of technology to improve your lives and create opportunities.”
Digital Poverty and Economic Growth
There’s an apparent link between countries with slow economic growth and limited access to technology, which results in digital poverty, according to a new report. The Global Information Technology Report for 2015 stated that only a minority of the world’s population has internet access; meaning, the economic and even social benefits that arise from being digitally involved are not reached. Approximately 39 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet. Additionally, many of the nations that do not have access to technology are failing to address digital poverty as a means to end poverty in general. Invoking simple, technology-focused reforms can not only help develop the economy, but boost productivity as well. Technology can also help improve education, communication and business practices.
According to Geiger, technology has a powerful impact on economies, especially those which are struggling to sustain their country’s needs. Digital poverty affects nations’ unemployment rates, increases inequalities and financial demands, particularly in countries with emerging and developing economies. In order to help in economic growth, countries need to establish a more advanced, digitally acquainted population.
Geiger also emphasized that the notion that technology is prevalent around the world is actually a myth because only a small percentage of the world’s population has access to technology. According to the report, out of 143 nations, among the top countries that have access to technology and use it as means for communication and economic impact are Singapore, United States, Norway, United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Netherlands and Finland. Additionally, the countries that have minimal access includes Yemen, Haiti, Burundi, Madagascar and Angola.
There are also countries that have made significant improvements in technological developments. The report revealed that among the countries that ranked high in development include Latvia, Macedonia, El Salvador and Armenia. The report reveals that those countries that utilize technologies have improved their economies by 20 percent, compared to 10 percent in nations who have not.
Aside from government actions and reforms, the population needs to be willing to become part of the digital world. Governments and content developers producing better and more relevant content can help with the job market, people’s income in particular. Providing the people with an incentive to advocate for technological advancements can help bring nations closer to the digital age. As countries become more digitally acquainted, digital poverty will decrease and in the process, more people will begin to see an increase in economic growth and a reduction in poverty rates.
– Nada Sewidan