How can policymakers support universal access to internet?
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Big emerging economies show large disparities in the proportion of Internet users in their populations, which range from about two-thirds in Brazil and Mexico to about one-third in India.
Advanced economies like the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada have the highest access rates. Big emerging economies show large disparities in the proportion of Internet users in their populations, which range from about two-thirds in Brazil and Mexico to about one-third in India.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by many in emerging and developing economies in Asia, are among those with the lowest access to the Internet despite being world leaders in mobile money transactions. There is also a large variation in Internet connectivity by firms in sub-Saharan Africa—only about 60 percent of businesses use email for business compared to about 85 percent in Europe and Central Asia.
The lack of universal and affordable access to the Internet may widen income inequality within and between countries.
Within countries. Income inequality and inequality of opportunity may worsen—even in advanced economies—because disadvantaged groups and people who live in rural areas have more limited Internet access. The disparity between men and women in their labor force participation, wages, and access to financial services may increase where there is a gender gap in access to the Internet. This could be the case in many emerging and developing countries where fewer women than men own a mobile phone.
Between countries. The relatively low Internet access might depress productivity in emerging and developing countries. IMF staff research finds that a one percentage point increase in the share of Internet users in the population raises per capita growth by 0.1–0.4 percentage points in sub-Saharan Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that having reliable Internet allows some businesses to continue operations amidst lockdowns, which keep economies running.
This situation can change with governments, policy makers and Entrepreneurs working together to bring NET DEMOCRACY to public.