The internet – not an equaliser

Here’s the story about the global impact of the internet. In the last 20 years, the digital revolution and its leapfrog technologies have allowed developing countries to close the gap with richer nations, and have brought huge advances in health, education and transparent government.Well, not quite, according to the World Bank. Its annual World Development Report, this year entitled Digital Dividends, pours some cold water on that utopian view. True, it sees plenty of good things emerging from the advance of technology, but it warns that poor governance and a lack of skills is making it hard for all of those benefits to be realised even once countries do get connected to the internet.This mammoth report, the work of droves of World Bank economists with access to huge troves of data, is full of fascinating nuggets. Who knew that Tuvalu was the world’s most expensive country to make a mobile phone call? Or that in the UK we spend on average 0.47% of our monthly income to run a mobile phone, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo it’s more than 50%? Or that in India, now thought of as a nascent technology superpower, more than a billion people still aren’t connected to the internet?

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