A WAKE-UP CALL

The COVID-19 global pandemic, apart from being an unparalleled crisis, is a unique opportunity for the world to enhance efforts around technology democratization, so that we can collectively be prepared to take on future challenges.

The ubiquity of technology in developed parts of the world is simply astonishing. Almost everyone has a smartphone and access to high-speed Internet. But netizens do not necessarily assert their ascendancy — for them it is part and parcel of living in a “connected society”. No wonder that a handful of countries account for nearly 90% of the market capitalization value of the world’s 70 largest digital platforms and over 75% of the cloud computing market (UNCTAD’s Digital Economy Report, 2019).

But what about less developed parts of the world, where the “connected population” is below 20%. There is little or no access to mobile networks and the Internet, let alone emerging technologies, which have the power to boost governance and decision-making — thereby boosting socio-economic development. According to the World Economic Forum, among the many inequalities exposed by COVID-19, the digital divide is not only one of the starkest, but also among the most surprising.

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