About the challenge
In 2015, world leaders committed to connecting the poorest people to the internet by 2020 through the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9.C. at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). At that same opportunity, a coalition of companies and organizations launched the Connectivity Declaration calling for a global commitment to connect the world and make universal internet access a reality. Access to the internet is a building block for ending extreme poverty. The internet is critical to share new ideas, it can promote job creation and improvements in education and health outcomes, and it can bolster efforts to strengthen the relationship between governments and citizens.
However, the lack of access in the poorest countries – particularly in Africa – limits the opportunity for growth. And for women and girls, the barriers to access are increasing. The world needs an ambitious plan to identify and connect the unconnected and to ensure that everyone has the skills and literacy to use the internet. Given current trends, to meet the SDG target would require connecting an additional 725 million people in Africa alone by 2020. Unless there are major steps taken to increase internet access for the poorest countries, current trends suggest that there will be 350 million women and girls still unconnected by 2020 in those countries.
Even where there is access to the internet, whether through fixed broadband or mobile, many women are reluctant to get online. Ensuring internet access for everyone means investing in the necessary infrastructure to provide high-quality and reliable connectivity. But it also requires an investment in digital skills and relevant content, as well as new regulations that reduce costs and expand access. Underpinning all of these suggestions is an investment in open data so that governments, businesses and civil society understand who is connected, who isn’t and why.
We are calling on world leaders to commit to connecting everyone in least developed countries (LDCs) by 2020. Some guidelines we recommend to assure that include:
1. INVEST IN A DIGITAL SKILLS REVOLUTION: To ensure digital literacy to those not yet connected – particularly women and girls – so that they have the skills to use the internet effectively.
2. BREAK DOWN BARRIERS TO ACCESSING THE INTERNET: To make sure that every citizen in the world can access relevant content, overcoming cultural barriers that stop them from accessing the internet.
3. INVEST IN OPEN DATA ON CONNECTIVITY: To index the percentage of unconnected and connected citizens to track the unconnected and commit to connecting them.
4. BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE DIGITAL FUTURE: To ensure affordable access for the world’s most marginalised people.
- 19% of Africa is connected to the internet, compared to 78% of Europe.
- Low-income countries are more than ten times less likely to be connected to the internet than high-income countries.
- A child living in a high-income country is six times more likely to have internet access at school than a child living in a poor country.
- A woman in Kenya is almost four times less likely to have access to the internet than a woman in the UK.