Efforts to extend the reach of the internet to the 4-billion people worldwide that are not yet connected will only succeed if a digital ecosystem approach is adopted where access, affordability, skills and content are given equal attention,
This is according to a new World Economic Forum-led initiative, Internet for All, whose key learning and best practices were published at the World Economic Forum for Africa being held in Kigali this week.
The learning is published as a collection of best practices from around the world on how public-private collaboration has enabled internet access and adoption. Entitled “Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption”, the report forms the basis of the Internet For All initiative’s first phase and concludes with a framework for governments and businesses to accelerate large-scale internet adoption.
The framework will be implemented in an initial project with the full endorsement of the governments of the northern corridor countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. In these countries, 75-million people representing 67% of the total population have no access to the internet.
“The internet has become a pervasive, fundamental part of daily life, but low internet penetration significantly impacts a country’s ability to participate in the digital economy, which is becoming an increasingly important priority for development as Africa, like the rest of the world, enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” says Alex Wong, head of Global Challenge Partnerships and a member of the executive committee of the World Economic Forum.
“We know it is possible to break down the digital divide for the 55% of the world’s population that is still not connected: now it’s time for governments, businesses and civil society to make it happen.”
“Achieving Internet for All is a critical priority for Africa to take full advantage of enormous current and future digital opportunities,” adds Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, minister for youth and ICT in Rwanda. “This report provides a clear framework on which our Internet for All development strategy is based. In the northern corridor of East Africa, our aim is to help bring 25-million more citizen online by 2019.”
Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, vice-president: sustainability and corporate responsibility at Ericsson, says: “There is no greater challenge to development than the digital divide, and the role of information and communications technology cannot be underestimated in helping to enable every one of the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved for every person in the world.”