Skip to Main Navigation


  • With digital technology, countries around the world are accelerating socioeconomic development, connecting citizens to services and opportunities, and building a better future.

    Digital innovation is in the process of transforming almost every sector of the economy by introducing new business models, new products, new services—and, ultimately, new ways of creating value and jobs. The results of this transition are already visible: the global digital economy in 2016 was worth $11.5 trillion, or 15.5% of the world’s GDP. This figure is expected to reach 25% in less than a decade.

    Technology is also having a profound impact on the way governments operate and interact with their citizens, opening the door to increased transparency and more efficient service delivery.

    This ongoing wave of innovation has the potential to remove many of the barriers that stand between people and opportunity, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable. Thanks to digital platforms, individuals—no matter where they live—can now access unprecedented amounts of information, take online jobs, enroll in e-courses, and even receive life-saving care through telemedicine. Mobile money is providing an easy and secure alternative to the traditional banking system, which has given a major boost to financial inclusion across many developing countries. Digital identification has allowed millions of marginalized people to prove who they are, exercise their rights, and avail of essential services like health or education.

    The benefits of digital innovation reach far and wide. In both developed and developing countries, disruptive technologies are quickly unlocking innovative solutions to complex challenges across a broad range of sectors from health and education to transport, disaster risk management, or agriculture.

    Yet not everyone has benefited equally: even though the digital revolution is a global phenomenon, there are still huge disparities between and within countries when it comes to the penetration, affordability, and performance of digital services.

    While more than half the world’s population now has access to the internet, the penetration rate in the least developed countries was only 15%, or 1 in 7 individuals.

    One contributing factor is that access to the internet through mobile or fixed broadband remains prohibitively expensive in many developing countries, where lack of digital infrastructure and regulatory bottlenecks hamper broadband development. As of December 2015, the cost of mobile-broadband services amounted to about 17% of the average monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in the least developed countries, compared to just 5% globally.

    In a world that is increasingly driven by information and communication technologies, this persisting digital divide could exacerbate inequalities and create a new class of “digital poor.” To avoid this scenario, countries are looking to scale up efforts toward universal broadband access, and give people the skills and resources they need to participate fully in the digital economy.

    Last Updated: Apr 08, 2019

  • The World Bank provides an extensive range of services and solutions to make sure client countries can harness the power of digital development.

    Our activities in the sector focuses on five key elements which, combined, form the basis for strong and inclusive digital economies:

    • Digital infrastructure (fixed and mobile broadband, fiber-optic cables, etc.) is the backbone of the digital economy. Access to digital connectivity should be universal and affordable.
    • Digital financial services and digital identification allow individuals, businesses, and governments to interact and conduct transactions.
    • Digital innovation and entrepreneurship need a supportive ecosystem of government regulations and access to financing.
    • Digital platforms, including e-commerce and e-government, drive usage and foster economic activity.
    • Digital literacy and skills create a digitally savvy workforce and boost competitiveness.

    Besides telecommunications expertise, building the five foundations of the digital economy requires capacity in multiple other fields, including finance, private sector development, education, labor, social protection, etc. As a result, the digital agenda mobilizes a wide variety of experts throughout the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA.

    While multidisciplinary collaboration is essential to the success of digital development itself, it also creates opportunities to integrate cutting-edge digital solutions across sectors—whether it be using geospatial analysis to improve disaster risk management, deploying wifi-enabled sensors to monitor crops remotely, or using big data from mobile devices to design better public transport networks.

    But even though technology has opened a wealth of new possibilities for global development, it does not come without risk. Cybersecurity and data protection, in particular, have become a growing concern. We work closely with client countries to help them implement the infrastructure, tools, and regulations that are necessary to address these challenges.

    World Bank Group Support

    In Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), the World Bank portfolio included 28 standalone digital development projects, with total commitments amounting to $1.28 billion. In addition, digital development components are increasingly included in projects across different sectors such as transport, education, health, agriculture, and public sector management.

    In FY18, IFC committed financing for a total of $539 million in Telecom, FinTech, and Venture Capital. IFC’s investment strategy in these sectors focuses on addressing gaps in digital connectivity and in the ecosystem for digital entrepreneurship—particularly in Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia, where several joint IFC/World Bank interventions are planned. Furthermore, IFC is actively fostering innovation in the provision of digital services such as FinTech, e-Health, e-Education, and e-logistics.

    MIGA has provided investment guarantees totaling more than $2 billion in the telecom and digital sectors over the past 25 years, including $855 million for projects in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    World Bank interventions in the digital sector are informed by in-depth research and analysis. Recent publications include:

    In addition to direct financial assistance and analytical work, the World Bank leverages its convening power to pool knowledge and resources from a vast array of public agencies, experts, innovators, private companies, and investors.

    To make digital solutions more easily accessible to developing countries, the World Bank launched the Digital Development Partnership (DDP), a platform for digital innovation and development finance. The DDP brings together public and private sector partners to foster the creation and implementation of digital development strategies, and to facilitate global knowledge exchange on digital development.

    The Identification for Development Initiative (ID4D), hosted by the World Bank, catalyzes the creation of robust and inclusive digital identification systems through analytics, assessments, and financing. Digital technology has unprecedented potential to close the global identification gap and transform the lives of the almost one billion people who still lack an official ID.

    In Africa, the World Bank Group is supporting the African Union’s efforts toward the digital transformation of the continent. Working with the African Union Commission and with national governments, the World Bank Group is helping to digitally enable every person, business and government in Africa by 2030, with an intermediary goal of doubling broadband connectivity by 2021. Unveiled in February 2019, this “digital moonshot” seeks to propel the continent forward, and ensure that African countries reap the full benefits of the digital economy.

    Last Updated: Apr 08, 2019

  • In West Africa, we have helped connect seven countries to the Africa Coast to Europe submarine fiber optic cable. As a result, the price of internet access has dropped dramatically—by more than half in most cases—allowing more schools, households, and SMEs to connect to better quality Internet. In the Gambia, for instance, the wholesale price for internet access is less than a fifth of what it used to be.

    In Bangladesh, a $100 million project led to the creation of the country’s first national datacenter, national enterprise architecture, and national cybersecurity incidence response team. Bangladesh’s global ranking in the UN e-Government Development Index moved from the 150th to the 115th position, the highest jump for any country during the project period. The project’s IT industry development activities are also on track to deliver 30,000 more jobs for Bangladeshi youth and achieve a $200 million increase in industry revenue, while positioning the country to compete more effectively .

    In Afghanistan, a $22 million credit supported reforms that made the telecommunications market more competitive and attracted more than $1.2 billion in private investments. This helped increase the number of telephone subscribers from 57,000 to 13.4 million between 2002 and 2010, and reduce costs from $2 a minute to $0.10 a minute.

    An additional $50 million project aims to expand internet access to more Afghans, building on widespread use of mobile phones to improve the delivery of public services, and supporting nascent entrepreneurship in the ICT sector. To date, about 186 kilometers of fiber cable have been deployed, and some 600 Afghans have been trained to become skilled information technology (IT) professionals.

    Under the $25 million Kosovo Digital Economy (KODE) Project, the World Bank is working with the government to bring affordable broadband service to 200 villages across the country. Thanks to an innovative public-private collaboration approach, thousands of rural households, schools, universities, and health centers will be connected to high-speed internet for the first time. The project will be instrumental in closing the digital divide, enhancing the competitiveness of Kosovo’s human capital, and integrating the country into the global digital economy.

    In Côte d'Ivoire, a $70 million e-agriculture project will significantly modernize the farming sector, while bringing affordable broadband to more than 1 million people in rural communities. In particular, the project will leverage digital platforms to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers, give them access to new markets, and simplify the dissemination of critical information such as real-time crop prices. Entrepreneurship and digital skills are another important focus: the program will give more young women an opportunity to learn how to code, and foster the development of home-grown digital content and services.

    In Myanmar, we helped the government create the right regulatory environment and attract foreign investment, while developing the local IT industry and creating jobs. In 2012, it cost $2,500 to buy a SIM card in Myanmar. Now, it costs just $1.10.

    In Kenya, the Transparency and Communications Infrastructure Project (KTCIP) contributed to a significant reduction in the price of broadband internet services, while expanding the geographic reach of the network. The project used this enhanced internet access as an opportunity to improve outcomes across multiple sectors. Specifically, the project increased the transparency, accountability, and decentralization of the public sector by rolling out the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) to all 47 County Governments, while making over 945 datasets and 93 digital maps available to the general public in a single portal. Education and job creation were another focus of the program: over 190 higher education institutions and 150 schools were equipped with broadband internet and WiFi hotspots. A startup incubator, Nailab, has supported creative young entrepreneurs in developing new applications and services, creating sustainable business plans, and obtaining access to financing.

    In Nicaragua, a recent project expanded broadband internet access and mobile phone coverage to some of the most isolated areas in the country, while reducing the price of telecommunications services. In particular, the project enabled the installation of 104 new broadband internet access points in 101 municipalities.

    Last Updated: Apr 08, 2019



In Depth

Open Development Technology Alliance

The Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA) is a knowledge platform that facilitates the development of and dissemination of information and communications technology tools.

The Korean Trust Fund on ICT4D

The Korean Trust Fund on ICT4D, administered jointly by the ICT Sector Unit and infoDev, supports activities that serve as input in the development of lending operations in key domains of ICT for Development.

Partnership for Open Data

The World Bank has joined forces with Open Data Institute and Open Knowledge Foundation in a three-year project designed to help policy makers and citizens in developing countries understand and exploit the benefits of ...

ITU Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development

The Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development is an international, multi-stakeholder initiative to improve the availability and quality of ICT data and indicators, particularly in developing countries.

HELP: Leaders for Transformation Network

Through showcasing success stories and exploring the benefits of ICT, the HELP network has provided knowledge, experience-sharing opportunities and resources to decision-makers around the world.

Additional Resources

Media Contacts

Washington, DC
Anne Senges, External Affairs Lead