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US House of Reps Passes Digital GAP Act

US House of Reps Passes Digital GAP Act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Digital Global Access Policy Act or the Digital GAP Act (H.R. 600) on January 24, just a day after the bill was reintroduced by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA-39). The legislation is aimed at promoting internet access in developing countries to spur economic growth and job creation, reduce poverty and improve health while advancing U.S. interests.

In today’s technology-driven world, internet access is a major driver of economic and social improvement. However, 4.2 billion people remain offline — about 60 percent of the world’s population, most of whom are in developing countries. In these areas, internet access is hindered by inadequate infrastructure and a poor regulatory environment, stifling the potential for sustainable growth and development.

The Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act seeks to promote first-time access to mobile or broadband internet for at least 1.5 billion people in both urban and rural areas of developing countries by 2020. It aims to do this is a variety of ways, including:
  • Removing tax and regulatory barriers to internet access.
  • Promoting internet deployment and related coordination, capacity building, and build-once policies and approaches in developing countries.
  • Promoting the use of the internet to increase economic growth and trade, along with democracy, government accountability, transparency and human rights.
  • Promoting inclusive internet policymaking for women, people with disabilities, minorities, low-income and marginalized groups and underserved populations.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce noted that women and girls are disproportionately affected by this digital gap. He said that “bringing 500 million women online could contribute up to $18 billion in GDP growth across 144 countries. That is how you reduce poverty; that is how you advance U.S. interests.”

In addition to Rep. Royce, Representatives Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA-5), Grace Meng (D-NY-6) and Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) were also listed as original cosponsors of the bill.

The Borgen Project commends the House for making this legislation a priority in the new year and urges the Senate to move swiftly to get this bill to the President’s desk.

– Kim Thelwell