Can you remember the last time you had to go to a friend’s house to use their wi-fi because yours was down? The last time you weren’t able to check your route to a job interview because you’d run out of data? The last time you missed some big news because you couldn’t get online?
Chances are, some or all of these things have happened to us at some point in our lives. But for billions of people—53 percent of the world’s population—these scenarios occur daily, and can often lead to a much bigger problem than being a little inconvenienced. They can directly affect a person’s ability to thrive.
There are significant benefits to improving internet access, but as we now know, this digital utopia is not available to everyone, with nearly half of our planet not having a connection.
Did you know that in the world’s poorest countries, only 15 percent of the population are connected to the internet, compared with 81 percent of people living in developed countries? That’s a huge disparity, and one that needs to be addressed.
There are many ways that lack of access to the internet can have a negative impact on people’s lives – this is especially true for girls and women – but the urgency of this issue can sometimes get overlooked. ONE’s new report, Making the Connection, estimates that by 2020, the digital gender divide across Africa could rise to 26 percent, leaving millions of girls and women out of the digital revolution. Because of this, we tasked our incredible policy team here at ONE to come up with 4 areas that MUST be prioritized if we’re to achieve the 2020 goal of connecting the world—not just the most developed countries—to the World Wide Web:
1. KICKSTART A DIGITAL SKILLS REVOLUTION: Today, approximately 263 million children and youth around the world are not in school, and more than 114 million young adults cannot read. Education combined with the knowledge that the internet brings to boost their potential dramatically.
2. BRIDGE THE INTERNET ADOPTION GAP: In the poorest the internet costs more in real terms than in Europe or the US – 70 percent of people cannot afford a basic broadband plan. We need to cut costs, make sure that we develop content that is useful and relevant, and break down cultural barriers than mean boys are more likely to use the internet than girls.
3 . INVEST IN OPEN DATA ON CONNECTIVITY: Only two out of 48 LDCs report internet use broken down by gender – and it is next to impossible to find out who is connected and who isn’t at the local level. If resources are to be allocated and implemented in the most effective way, we must know and understand where unconnected women and girls live and find out what their needs are.
4. BUILD AFFORDABLE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE DIGITAL FUTURE: We need to lay cables and provide better coverage in remote areas. When a road is being build, an internet cable should be underneath it.