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