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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 remained 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. Around 850 million people in the world cannot prove their identity, which limits their access to digital services and opportunities. The gender gap persists;  although women account for close to half the world's population, 259 million fewer women have access to the internet than men. The share of internet users in urban areas is nearly twice as high as in rural areas, and at the end of 2022, in low-income economies, 39 percent of young people (ages 15-24) use the internet, compared with only 23 percent for the rest of the population.

Digital technologies can also transform markets and economic opportunities.  In 2021, mobile technologies and services generated $4.5 trillion of economic value added, or 5 percent of GDP, globally, but 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.

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: Mar 31, 2023

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