A ministerial forum under the theme of Bridging the Digital Divide was convened during the fifth World Internet Conference (WIC) on 8 November 2018. The forum, which was attended by ministerial officials, heads of telecommunication companies, scholars, and experts from 14 countries, tackled different topics including the digital divide and economic development, digital divide and information sharing, and the role of international communication on bridging digital divide. Zhuang Rongwen, Chinese Minister of Cyberspace Administration noted in his speech: ‘[W]e should strengthen co-operation in enhancing people's Internet literacy and abilities and strengthen the training of digital skills to help them improve the awareness and capability of network security protection.’ During keynote speeches, Chinese and foreign guests emphasised the challenges and opportunities to narrow the digital divide. Some of the key highlights included eliminating the gap between the rich and the poor, informalisation of education, promoting entrepreneurship, fostering economic globalisation and the global digital market, and constructing a ‘Digital Silk Road’ to bridge the digital divide.
The need for people to gain access to ICT resources and narrow the digital divide is crucial, and is especially relevant now in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to understand how access to the Internet affects the level of economic and social development in a country.
The digital divide can be defined as a rift between those who, for technical, political, social, or economic reasons, have access and capabilities to use ICT/Internet, and those who do not. Various views have been put forward about the size and relevance of the digital divide.