Take a moment and imagine your life without the Internet. I don’t mean the minor convenience of a power outage. I am talking about no access whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada.
This is the reality of approximately 4.4 billion people – more than half of the world’s population. Over the last few years, corporations, governments, nongovernmental organizations, international groups, and the United Nations have been working hard to extend the reach of the Digital Economy by expanding Internet access.
Why should the 43% who are connected care? The answer is simpler than you think.
Internet connectivity for the unconnected is not charity – it’s for the betterment of everyone
The McKinsey study “Offline and Falling Behind: Barriers to Internet Adoption” warns that the absence of Internet connectivity has profound implications. “Those who do not, or simply cannot, go online increasingly suffer from constrained prospects for economic attainment, class mobility, education, and other areas related to quality of life.”
As the Digital Economy continues to play a bigger role in how society operates and behaves, this divide will only widen, leaving behind a majority that is disadvantaged with no hope of catching up. Providing connectivity to the less fortunate is not charity – it impacts us all.
Here are four reasons why the Digital Economy has the potential to transform lives across all socioeconomic demographics and regions.
1. Greater awareness and engagement
Oppressive governments. Terrorist-afflicted atrocities. Natural disasters. Overwhelming poverty and illness. For the unconnected, these events and newsworthy headlines remain largely obscure to the outside world. As a result, they are forced to live under difficult, and sometimes horrific, circumstances in silence and with hopelessness.
As we’ve seen over the last few years, the Digital Economy is opening up an attentive, global audience to this social issue. For example, the Red Cross raised millions in relief donations in a matter of days for the earthquake victims in Haiti, thanks to the intervention of social media and mobile texting campaigns. Plus, entire political movements for change is powered by connectivity – consider India, where Facebook and Twitter helped political parties secure support, donations, and voters.
2. Economic growth
A study conducted by Accenture Institute for High Performance showed that increased participation in the Digital Economy will have twice the impact on economic growth rates in emerging markets as seen in developed countries. Deloitte’s research further validates this finding by stating that countries in Africa, Latin America, and south and east Asia could boost long-term productivity by 25%, increase GDP growth by 72%, and create 140 million new jobs. But first, Internet adoption needs to rise to the level seen in developed countries.
On the other hand, the World Bank found that even a small improvement can make a big impact. With every 10 percentage-point increase in high-speed connection, developed countries experience a 1.3 growth in GDP. Knowing how economic improvements are further amplified in emerging and less-developed areas, the possibilities for growth can be greater.
3. Surplus in discretionary funds
When caring for a family, life can get very expensive quickly, no matter your economic bracket. And when you have little means, the least expensive incidentals can seem catastrophic to your budget. Due to the transparency provided by search tools, online prices are approximately 10% lower than those offline.
Although this impact appears minimal, it is generating tens of billions of dollars in consumer surplus in areas that widely engage in the Digital Economy. Plus, the rise of the sharing economy is enabling people to access goods and services in small increments, with less money invested, and on an as-needed basis.
4. Lower barriers to business expansion
The Digital Economy offers businesses of all sizes, industries, and regions the same insights, technology, and opportunities as those seen in global corporations. The emergence of cloud-based services and technology is giving even the smallest of companies an edge by offering advanced IT infrastructures with minimal upfront costs, effort, and time.
As Tracey Wilen, prominent thought leader, author, and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, and careers, observed, “Anyone can be a global enterprise. In less than an hour, we can open a storefront and accept international currency. We can source a global workforce that includes everything from data scientists, accountants, lawyers, and PR professionals to video production engineers and Web site designers.”
Are you ready for the challenge?
The worldwide adoption Digital Economy is currently on a trajectory that will bring between 500 million and 900 million on board. However, these gains are not enough – more than half of our population will still be in the dark.
All-inclusive access requires greater collaboration and sustainable effort among governments, policymakers, international communities, the telecommunications industry, content and service providers, and corporations – but most of all, people like us.
For more insight on how connectivity impacts the way we all live, work, and play, see 3 Ways The Networked Economy Is Changing Your Life [VIDEO].