The Internet: Not an Equalizer

The digital revolution is not yet a great social and economic equalizer. I draw your attention to a newly released study, the World Development Report of the World Bank, on the impact of digital technology. The World Bank studied the impact of digital information technologies on diverse populations to determine whether or not the advent of internet services benefits rich and poor alike. The conclusion is that contrary to popular myth, the availability of the internet has not yet closed the educational and income gap.

The report highlights some areas of remarkable progress. I personally would highlight the universal electronic Aadhaar personal identification system recently introduced in India as an example of digital technology that has enabled social and economic change. The digital information systems can drive social transformation in countries with high income and eduction levels. Please see the studies we at ACCESS Health International have done that describe the most advanced digital society: Estonia.

The sad fact remains that the overall impact of the digital revolution is far from being realized in most high and low income countries. In retrospect, this observation should not be surprising, as the advantaged are most capable of benefiting from most new technologies. The benefits of the internet access depend upon education, job security, and either free or low cost access to the internet.

Much more thought and work must be done to ensure the benefit of internet access is widely distributed throughout all societies. Here are links to the report itself and a BBC news story, as well.