This past January, the World Bank issued the Digital Dividends report, a comprehensive study of the state of digital developments around the world. All in all, it’s a mixed picture. Digital technologies have been rapidly spreading in just about all nations, but their expected digital dividends, - i.e., their broad development benefits, - have lagged behind and are unevenly distributed.
“We find ourselves in the midst of the greatest information and communications revolution in human history,” notes the report in its Foreword. “More than 40 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet, with new users coming online every day. Among the poorest 20 percent of households, nearly 7 out of 10 have a mobile phone…” But, while this is great progress, much remains to be done. Many are still left behind due to their limited connectivity, and are thus unable to fully benefit from the global digital revolution.
While universal connectivity is necessary, it’s far from sufficient, the report adds. “[T]raditional development challenges are preventing the digital revolution from fulfilling its transformative potential… the full benefits of the information and communications transformation will not be realized unless countries continue to improve their business climate, invest in people’s education and health, and promote good governance.”
Let me attempt to summarize the salient findings and recommendations of this comprehensive (over 300 pages) report.