Harnessing Technology for Inclusive Development: Bridging the Digital Divide in Developing Countries

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By Ify Onyekwere

Access to technology and the internet is crucial for social, educational, and economic advancement in today’s globally interconnected world. However, a significant digital divide persists, especially in developing countries, where access to technology and connectivity is limited. Bridging this digital divide is vital for inclusive development and empowering individuals and communities. Fortunately, technological advancements are pivotal in narrowing this gap, fostering progress, and unlocking opportunities for millions worldwide.

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), approximately half of the world\’s population remains unconnected, with a vast majority residing in developing countries.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, only 28.2% of the population had access to the Internet by the end of 2020, compared to the global average of 53.6%. Similarly, in South Asia, only 51.8% of the population had internet access. These figures highlight the urgent need to address the digital divide and harness the potential of technology for sustainable development.

Several challenges contribute to the digital divide in developing countries. These challenges include limited infrastructure, high costs, lack of digital skills and literacy, and gender disparities. Many remote areas lack basic telecommunication infrastructure, making it difficult to provide internet connectivity. Moreover, the high cost of devices, broadband services, and data plans often places them out of reach for low-income individuals and communities.

Furthermore, the lack of digital skills and literacy is a barrier to the use of technology because, without proper training and understanding, individuals cannot fully leverage the benefits of technology, and gender disparities will persist, with women and girls facing more significant hurdles to accessing and using technology, exacerbating inequalities; but technology, when appropriately harnessed, can be a powerful tool for bridging the digital divide and driving inclusive development.

In an interview with Mayọkun Adeoti, CEO, Standard Business Operating Systems, he addressed the need for governments in developing countries to create enabling environments through relevant policy frameworks that will allow low-cost wireless networks to penetrate even the remotest areas.

In his words, “Community networks are uncommon in remote parts of the world, despite their countries\’ low internet penetration rate. In Africa, the proportion of the unconnected is among the highest globally and little is known about the existence, possibilities, and role of community networks”.

The Standard Business Operating boss further stated that there should be concerted efforts to train local stakeholders with relevant skills to build and maintain these community networks; funding should also be made available, internally or externally, to get the projects off the ground. This he said will speed up access to the internet in remote areas and will ultimately lead to more excellent educational opportunities, growth and development for the communities in developing countries.

Given the critical role that technology plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and addressing issues like poverty, hunger, education, healthcare, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, stakeholders must be dedicated to utilizing targeted investments, creative solutions, and cooperative efforts to close the digital divide, unlock opportunities, and ensure a brighter future for all. In turn, this will work to promote inclusive growth, empower more people, and make the world more prosperous and equitable.

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