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Digitalization is the transformative opportunity of our time. Digital technologies and platforms are increasingly important in addressing global challenges and responding to shocks, and also create new jobs and markets, expand access to finance, and improve efficiency and transparency.

Yet the digital divide remains stark and is becoming synonymous with a development divide. Hospitals, schools, governments and businesses cannot operate effectively without digital tools.  The digital divide holds back growth and limits opportunities.

About one-third of the global population, or 2.6 billion people, remain offline in 2023. While more than 90 percent of people in high-income countries used the internet in 2022, only one in four in low-income countries use the internet. 850 million people lack any form of identification. Many don’t have the basic skills to use the internet effectively.

The benefits of digitalization must be accessible to all.  Digital foundations, especially high quality, reliable, affordable connectivity and devices; open, interoperable and safe digital public infrastructure; and digital skills, have become imperative and urgent for inclusive, resilient and sustainable development in the new digital era.

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

Our work focuses on key pillars, including inclusive access to fast, reliable, safe, and affordable internet. Across the World Bank, 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.  

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.
  • More financing to bring everybody online:  Achieving universal access to broadband will require over US$400 billion by 2030 and neither the public nor the private sector can do this alone. Governments need to make bold reforms and the private sector can reduce costs, risks, and increase efficiency and innovation.

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2023

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