In its 2015 report on information technology, the United Nations Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals recommended that the international community “strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in the least developed economies by 2020 ”. In light of the trends described in the report, this target will not be reached over the set timeframe.
The rapporteurs noted that “the Internet remains non-existent, scarce, unaffordable or too slow in large parts of the developing world “. As is still the case in Haiti today. According to the report, at the end of 2013, 81% of the population in high-income Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were using the Internet. At the same date, the rate among low-income countries was 10 times lower, just 7.6%, which was lower than the penetration rate observed in OECD countries in 1997, i.e. 16 years older
In 2013, of the 25 low-income countries surveyed, five had a penetration rate greater than 10% and only one, Kenya, had a rate greater than 20%. The country liberalized its telecommunications sector in the late 1990s and established the “Kenya Internet Exchange Point” in 2002, which led to a dramatic drop in operating costs and retail prices for providers and an increase in the cost of business. local content. As a result, Internet penetration in Kenya increased from 1% in 2002 to 39% in 2015, five times the average for the low-income group.
As in the case of mobile telephony, the the gap between rural and urban areas in terms of Internet penetration remains very large. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), this is happening in several regions of the world. In Guatemala, for example, an urban household is 12 times more likely to be connected to the Internet than a rural household. And the ITU estimates that this ratio could be even higher in low-income countries.
The difference in the speed of Internet adoption between countries is also striking. High-income OECD countries took only six years on average to achieve a penetration rate of 20%. In contrast, only half of the lower middle-income countries reached this threshold and it took almost twice as long. Moreover, while 90% of high-income countries have crossed the 60% threshold, only 15% of upper-middle-income countries – and not a single lower-middle-income country – have already reached this threshold. In low-income countries, Internet penetration has increased at a rate of over 10%, but from a very low base and growth tends to slow.
Besides access and existence infrastructure, lack of digital content and services are another major barrier to more widespread Internet adoption. Many people don't log in just because the content and access is so limited. In addition, smartphone prices are still high, but thanks to innovation and competition, they are expected to continue to fall, the report's authors predicted. Falling prices could then pave the way for the mobile revolution, a rapid expansion of mobile broadband around the world.
Much more than smartphones will be needed
Along with falling prices, experts say , innovative projects could remedy the infrastructure problems that hamper the use of smartphones. For example, Google's Loon project planned to create a network of balloons placed in the stratosphere to broadcast a 4G wireless signal to the most isolated rural areas. This project was not intended to provide a short-term solution, but rather indicates the role that disruptive innovations could play in alleviating the obstacle represented by an insufficient level of infrastructure.
It would be illusory to assume that the Internet would become soon to be ubiquitous without significant political action, experts said. “Policymakers must accelerate liberalization, stimulate public investment and work closely with national and international companies to attract private investment and encourage innovation,” they advocated.
In this perspective, connecting zones rural areas in developing countries to broadband networks should be a priority. As these areas lack other infrastructure and access to public services, the benefits of communication and information technology (ICT) will have a particularly significant impact. Improving conditions and infrastructure as well as preparing the population may also increase the potential for this impact.
The digital divide remains a major concern between rich and poor countries, the Davos Economic Forum lamented. The top 10% of countries had improved twice as much as the bottom 10%. Many developing countries “whose rankings have improved over the past decade are now facing stagnation or regression,” admitted Bruno Lanvin (in 2005), European expert and co-author of the report. Part of the reason for this is the persistent divides between urban and rural areas and between income groups within countries that exclude large parts of the population from the digital economy.
Half of the world's population had access to it. in 2015 from a cell phone and 39% of the population had access to the Internet, noted Thierry Geiger, senior economist at the Economic Forum. He explains: “Cell phones may be ubiquitous around the world, but the ICT revolution will not happen through voice or text. Without better access to an affordable Internet connection, a huge portion of the world's population will continue to live in digital poverty, deprived of the tremendous economic and social benefits that ICTs represent. “
This is very worrying given the relentless pace of technological development, noted Soumitra Dutta, professor at Cornell University and co-author of the report. She warns that “the least developed countries risk falling further behind.”
To improve the lot of their populations, governments must act on all fronts including on content, Bahjat El-Darwiche had suggested. , expert in digital technologies. “To encourage more people to connect, emerging markets must ensure a sustainable supply of local and relevant digital content, which involves coordinated action between the main players playing an important role in the development of the digital ecosystem: governments , brands, operators and content creators.
There must be enlightened digital leadership in Haiti to be able to take advantage of its opportunities. It also requires a strategic plan and political will at the highest level of state. With teleworking, telemedicine, distance education, Covid-19 shows to what extent digital technology can be a driver of competitiveness and productivity, vectors for promoting economic growth. All of this, however, will require an Internet revolution in Haiti.