Global digital divide needs more efforts; China helps bridge gap
Digital divides need to be further narrowed with partnerships from multiple stakeholders so that digital technologies can benefit more people around the world, senior officials and industry experts said on Wednesday.
Despite steady progress in connectivity in coverage terms, with 95 percent of the world's population currently within range of a mobile broadband network, 2.7 billion people are still unconnected to the internet, which translates into one in three individuals globally, said International Telecommunication Union Deputy Secretary-General Malcolm Johnson, citing data from the organization.
The share of internet users is twice as high in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. In high income countries, the level of internet use stands at 91 percent, compared with 22 percent in low income countries.
"It is clear connectivity alone is not enough. It must be affordable, content must be relevant and in the local language, and users must have the skills to make the best use of it," Johnson said at the 2022 Sustainability Forum "Connectivity+: Innovate for Impact", organized by Huawei Technologies, held in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Wednesday.
In the face of unprecedented global challenges, he said that digital technologies are needed more than ever to "shape peaceful, sustainable societies and economies", stressing the importance of collaboration, cooperation and coordination.
Huawei has signed a global commitment to join the ITU's Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, which will bring connectivity to about 120 million people in remote areas in more than 80 countries by 2025.
Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, said digital innovation can help accelerate sustainable development and build a better future, but warned that there exists an increasing likelihood that those with limited or no access to various technologies will be left behind in the development process.
He called for "multi-stakeholder partnerships" of policymakers, the private sector, academia and civil society to close "the sobering reality" of a digital divide that excludes a third of the global population.
"Our dynamic world urgently needs improved digital cooperation to capitalize on the transformational potential of technology to create new jobs, boost financial inclusion, close the gender gap, spur a green recovery and redesign our world to be more prosperous and inclusive," he said. "Now is the time to act."
Kitty Fok, managing director of IDC China, made two predictions on how the future of connectivity is going to be — over the short to medium term, and over the long term.
"By 2023, 40 percent of enterprises will benefit from optimized operational efficiency and security, and reduce network costs by leveraging SD-WAN and security for cloud-managed networking and security," Fok said.
From the longer-term perspective, meanwhile, by 2027, 80 percent of the Global 2000 enterprises will require LEO satellites to cover the gap in network of coverage for remote, rural areas and those that lack reliable international service, she said.