COVID-19 prompts urgency of bridging digital divide in Central Asia

During an online briefing on ‘COVID-19 and the Digital Divide in Central Asia,’ World Bank representatives flagged out that almost half of the population in Central Asia is not digitally connected which hampers employment and access to adequate healthcare. ‘The COVID-19 crisis has underlined the connectivity chasm — the digital divide between those who are connected and those who are not. This digital divide is worsening existing social inequalities and is hampering economic growth in the region,’ highlighted said World Bank Regional Director Lilia Burunciuc. To this aim, the World Bank proposed several solutions ranging from improving access, affordability, and security, as well as increasing competition, attracting private investment, and modernising sector governance. World Bank experts further advised Central Asia to focus on strengthening regulatory authorities; removing remaining monopoly rights; and limiting market dominance of incumbents. In this vein, the World Bank is funding digitalisation projects in the Kyrgyz Republic and Afghanistan and is preparing projects for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.