The World Economic Forum released its publication Our Shared Digital Future Building an Inclusive, Trustworthy and Sustainable Digital Society that was produced in collaboration with leaders from business, government, academia and civil society. The paper aimed at shaping an agenda to move towards a more inclusive, trustworthy, and sustainable digital future in six shared goals that include universal internet access and adoption, digital transformation, digital identity, governance, cyber resilience, and data. The document reinforces the importance of addressing the digital divide through approaches that go beyond digital access to include digital literacy, digital identity, and a new social contract that allows all classes of society to benefit from the digital economy. Additionally, the paper outlines some digital initiatives and provides common frame around which initiatives can focus and become mutually reinforcing. It further posits a raft of open questions to form the discourse in different forums in 2019.
The impact of the Internet on businesses and the global economy has been crucial in shaping new economic models, and at the same time, raising new concerns.
The Internet is one of the primary drivers of economic growth, which is visible in many countries that have placed the development of ICT as one of the primary tools for boosting the economy.
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.