Bridging The Digital Divide: A Gateway To Prosperity

Rakesh Shetty

In a recent blog, A Covenant For Prosperity: Connected Communities, I explored the concept of how connected communities can serve as role models to usher in prosperity. In conversations with customers and colleagues, there is a general consensus that digital innovations fueled by rapid advances in technology and communications are transforming our lives at a pace unprecedented in human history.

This raises a few interesting questions about how communities are adopting digital innovations. Are all communities prospering at the same rate, or is there a gap in prosperity between communities that is widening? Are we accelerating a winner-take-all culture, or are we ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to prosper?

In response to these questions, I believe we need to view prosperity along two fundamental dimensions: First, the meeting of basic needs; and second, value-added services. The basic human needs include food on the table, a safe and secure community, reliable healthcare, and affordable housing and education. After the basic services are secured, constituents can then start to benefit from value-added services that make their life more enjoyable and easier, such as predictable transportation services, arts and entertainment, and hospitality.

Digital and financial inclusion are the underlying pillars that bridge the gaps in prosperity and ensure all constituents can access the services they need and desire, whether basic or more advanced.

The digital divide: fact or fiction?

Constituents expect relevant, seamless, and tailored services from their city officials. Employment opportunities, education, and healthcare services continue to play a major role in making a city attractive to its residents and visitors. Cities and their adjacent metropolitan areas that plan ahead to meet these changing needs are emerging as key hubs, and they now attract more citizens, employers, talent, and visitors than neighboring areas.

However, not all cities have this approach, making concerns about a digital divide between communities highly relevant. According to a United Nations (UN) Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) State of the World’s Cities report, prosperity for all has been compromised by a narrow focus on economic growth. For example, there is a region the United States called the Rust Belt, where several cities are failing because government officials have yet to recognize the changing needs of their constituents and local businesses.

Experian, in its fifth annual State of Credit report, lists the highest and lowest credit scores, bankcard usage, average debt, and other factors in more than 100 metropolitan areas across the United States. Mankato, Minnesota had the top score because it has the best rankings in each of the categories that were tracked. One can only wonder how this city is run compared to the failing ones in the Rust Belt.

In many countries, there is a continuing migration of communities from rural to urban settings seeking better opportunities. According to a UN World Urbanization Prospects report, an estimated 66% of the world’s population will be urban by 2050. To accommodate this influx of people, governments must start designing their cities to ensure that digital innovations provide equal access to basic and value-added services for all constituents. City administrators and businesses need to collaborate to ensure that all constituents have a fair opportunity to prosper.

With a forward-thinking approach, any digital divide between communities can be transformed to a digital bridge that helps improve lives.

The bridge of inclusion

Here are a few examples of how a digital bridge allows constituents to rely on their elected officials to provide the kind of services that promote prosperity at all levels.

  • Fire and Rescue Service in New South Wales, Australia has leveraged technology to give front-line emergency response workers real-time access to information. This enables the administrators to send the right people and the right equipment to emergencies by using real-time knowledge, thus providing security and peace of mind to over seven million residents.
  • The City of Buenos Aires, Argentina uses digital innovations to help street inspectors enter and process data about city maintenance and permits. Administrators can now measure and analyze water levels, direction, and speed from sensors embedded in 30,000 storm drains and provide maintenance crews real-time data to clear drains and prevent floods. This improves the lives of three million residents in the city.
  • In China, the city of Nanjing has developed a next-generation solution called Smart Traffic. City administrators can monitor the status of transportation systems across different city zones by aggregating and analyzing data captured by sensors and RFID chips across the city. These insights can then provide concrete recommendations for traffic planning.
  • City Football Group is leveraging digital innovations to engage their fans in Manchester, New York, and Melbourne to deliver personalized insights on player and team performance. Fans can enjoy the game in completely new ways, with access to player insights at their fingertips anywhere and anytime.

Improving lives through digital inclusion

The vision and purpose of SAP is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. We believe that the work we do can deliver the digital innovations that help communities prosper. To learn more about how our vision and purpose enables individuals, families, and businesses around the world to prosper, visit here.


Rakesh Shetty

About Rakesh Shetty

Rakesh Shetty is the Head of Marketing for Strategic Industries at SAP responsible for financial services, retail, public services and telecommunications sectors. Mr. Shetty has worked in the software industry for over 18 years in a variety of roles delivering enterprise software solutions with assignments in Asia, Europe and the United States.