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Overview

The Digital Development Global Practice works with governments in developing countries to build the foundations for inclusive and responsible digital transformation, including their transition to digital economies, governments, and societies.

Digital technologies are at the forefront of development and provide a unique opportunity for countries to accelerate economic growth and connect citizens to services and jobs. In times of crisis—from natural disasters to pandemics such as the one the world experienced with COVID-19—digital technologies keep people, governments, and businesses connected. They enable innovative solutions to complex development challenges and help deliver digital banking and telemedicine services.

Yet in 2022, nearly 3 billion people remain offline, the vast majority without access are concentrated in developing countries. And the usage gap remains a challenge. Close to half (43 percent) of the world's population were not using mobile internet last year, despite living in areas with mobile broadband coverage.

Our work focuses on addressing constraints to digital inclusion and transformation, around key pillars including inclusive access to fast, reliable, safe, and affordable internet. Across the World Bank Group, we seek to stimulate demand for digital applications, digital skills, and digital platforms to support governments, business, and individuals to participate more fully in the digital economy.  

Fostering digital inclusion is of paramount importance. One billion people in the world cannot prove their identity which limits their access to digital services and opportunities. The gender gap persists; women remain 7 percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone and are 16 percent less likely to use mobile internet. This means that there are still 264 million fewer women than men accessing mobile internet.  The share of internet users in urban areas is twice as high as in rural areas, and at the end of 2021, 71 percent of the world’s younger population aged 15-24 was using the internet, compared with 57 percent of all other age groups. Estimates are that with 60 percent of global GDP expected to rely on digital communication technologies in 2022, vulnerable populations in both developing and developed countries who are unable to connect to or use digital technologies risk being left behind in the post-pandemic recovery, leading to potentially heavier knock-on effects.

Digital technologies can also transform markets and economic opportunities.  Digitalization of public sector operations and services, together with development of digital industries and jobs helps drive socio-economic development. Research has shown how mobile technology significantly drove GDP in the 2000–2017 period – a 10% increase in mobile adoption boosted GDP by 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent.

What will it take for countries to reap the benefits of digitalization, and participate fully in the global digital economy?

  • Closing the global digital divide: Even as new technologies spread rapidly around the world, billions of people have still never used the internet.  
  • Preparing for the jobs of tomorrow: Innovation is radically changing the nature of work: new jobs are emerging, others are evolving. To compete in the digital economy, countries will need to prioritize education and build the digital skills of their workforce while creating efficient safety nets to support those transitions.
  • Developing secure, reliable digital systems: As the world is going digital, strengthening capacity in areas like cybersecurity and personal data protection has become more important than ever.

Last Updated: Oct 06, 2022

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