Universal Internet key to digital age

Economy March 09, 2016 01:00


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TO DELIVER fully on the development promise of a new digital age, countries need to close the digital divide by making the Internet universal, affordable and safe, according to the World Bank.

However, they must also strengthen regulations to ensure competition among businesses, adapt workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy and foster accountable institutions.

While the Internet, mobile phones and other digital technologies are spreading rapidly throughout the developing world, the anticipated digital dividends of higher growth, more jobs and better public services have fallen short of expectations, according to the “World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends” authored by co-directors Deepak Mishra and Uwe Deichmann and team.

About 60 per cent of the world’s population remains excluded from the ever-expanding digital economy.

The benefits of rapid digital expansion have been skewed towards the wealthy, skilled and influential around the world, who are better positioned to take advantage of the new technologies. Although Internet users worldwide have more than tripled since 2005, four billion people still lack access to the Web.

To reap the greatest benefits, countries must create the right environment for technology -– regulations that facilitate competition and market entry, skills that enable workers to leverage the digital economy and institutions that are accountable to people. Digital technologies can, in turn, accelerate development.

At the launch of the report in Thailand yesterday,  Mishra also suggested that countries should learn from each other on different models of digital technology projects and determine the most appropriate design for their countries. The governments should conduct internal consultations with all stake holders of the digital economy –ranging from private sector to civil society – to make sure that the e-government projects are compatible with the privacy and cyber security concern of the citizens.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the problem of difficult access to broadband Internet is the least difficult compared to other related problems, since further expansion of broadband Internet access could be easily achieved.

The most challenging problem is to undertake educational reform to enable people to fully leverage technologies to promote their own lifelong learning, he added.

According to the National Broadcasting and Telecommuni-cations Commission Thailand had 85 million active mobile phone subscribers and 5.3 million broadband Internet household users last year.

The NBTC and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry have recently agreed to collaborate to provide to all 70,000 villages nationwide broadband connections to the Internet this year.