With its subtitle 'Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development', the IGF 2015 promised to be a discussion hub on digital development. Issues such as affordable access and the digital divide featured prominently in debates, with relevance scores of 92.5% and 100% respectively. Furthermore, several reports were presented, such as the Broadband Commission's Broadband Targets for 2015 and the IGF's draft report Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion - which is currently generating input. More on the discussion of development issues at the IGF can be found in the IGF summary report.
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.
Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).
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.