Pandemic exposes Digital Inequality

Big Tech Boom:

This week undoubtedly belong to the Big 4 Technology titans (Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google), not for the depositions of their CEOs before the U.S Congress but for the way they have outsmart COVID-19 to register a spectacular FY20 Q2. If we add Microsoft to the group it becomes a lethal combination 5 companies who control more than 20% of S&P 500 and have a total Market cap of greater $5 trillion dollars. Not since the 1980s have the biggest five companies had such a large share of the index, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Digital Inequality:

As I reflect over the last 4 months under different degrees of “stay at home” orders from the Government, I can see the amount of digital adaptability people are forced to do. Many people who never did video call in their live had to learn different avenues to contact their loved ones. Students in schools were asked to submit assignments online. Employees were doing work from home, juggling between a smartphone and a computer. For many people its not an easy switch.

India Digital Divide:

India Government ordered multiple shutdowns since March 2020 forcing 1.3 Billion to stay indoors. As people were encouraged to stay indoors, they started to put greater reliance on technology in the home. But working, learning and connecting with friends remotely requires households to meet a digital threshold. For many low-income families, in India, such connection is a luxury.

Bridging Digital Divide:

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that access to technology and a basic level of digital skills are necessities. Individuals, corporations, educational institutions and communities have all had to take a leap into a digital environment in order to cope with what may be the new normal.

Conclusion:

  • COVID-19 has brought to the fore the wide disparity in digital inclusiveness and literacy.
  • People in underdeveloped countries with low internet penetration suffered more in the absence of household internet.
  • Internet access should be a fundamental right and no more a luxury good.
  • Governments should take the help of private sector and incentivize them to invest in building infrastructure for digital access.
  • Individuals, Civil Society, Community leaders, Private Sector, Governments and Multilateral Organizations should focus on improving digital literacy.

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