According to a report, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new toolkit to support the development of high-speed Internet services in rural communities. The toolkit defines 27 USDA programmes that aim to ‘facilitate the expansion of broadband, including grants, loans and technical assistance from multiple mission areas of the USDA’.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, Anne Hazlett, stressed the importance of the user-friendly toolkit by stating ‘high-speed broadband e-connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for school children, doing homework in rural communities’.
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 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.