In a speech to the United Nations in September 2015, Mark Zuckerberg stated, “When communities are connected, we can lift them out of poverty.” During his talk, the Facebook CEO and founder asserted that increased Internet access can aid in reducing global poverty.
According to the World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report, 60 percent of the world’s population do not have access to the Internet. In the United States alone, 60 million people do not have Internet access at home. However, for the rest of the world’s population, technological advancement has provided enormous levels of wealth and development.
A recent report by Price Waterhouse Cooper’s consulting and strategy firm, Strategy&, states that giving internet to the world could bring extraordinary results. If the 4.1 billion people without Internet were given access, 500 million people could be brought out of poverty.
For those in poverty, the Internet provides a multitude of opportunities, including jobs, access to global current affairs and education. In 1998, the World Hospitals and Health Services Journal released an article discussing the advantages of Internet access, arguing that “Access to information is an essential condition to development.” Almost twenty years on, researchers and institutions are still looking to the Internet as a technique for reducing global poverty.
In developing and impoverished areas, most individuals cannot afford the cost of the Internet. According to the World Economic Forum, only 20.7 percent of Africa’s population use the Internet, compared to 77.6 percent of Europe’s population.
The Head of Africa for the World Economic Forum, Elsie Kanza, discussed the way in which technological advancement could help bring “vast improvements in the way the region governs, feeds, lives, educates, trades and interacts with itself.”
On a recent “Intersections” podcast, the Brookings Institute recently discussed the issue of poverty and internet access. Laurence Chandy, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, stated, “Digital technology is changing what it means to be poor because it’s bringing poor people out of the margins.”
– Isabella Farr