How Coronavirus Has Exposed the Digital Divide

November 2020

As commerce, employment and even education continue to leverage the internet and technology, digital preparedness takes on ever-increasing importance. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed the existing digital divide in both developing and developed countries alike. As international efforts to combat the virus continue, corporate and government stakeholders are turning their attention towards projects and policies that can help ameliorate the divide and improve global access.

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Key Findings

A digital divide is present around the globe, affecting both emerging and developed markets

The digital divide is typically formed along a variety of different factors. These include rural versus urban regions, income and socioeconomic status, and a variance of the different types of access across these groups.

COVID-19 is exacerbating and highlighting the gaps that already existed in the system

The isolation at home caused by the pandemic has brought many of these disparities to light and is exposing the need to address them in order to address a permanently changing society in the wake of a global health crisis.

Corporate response will be important as we look for solutions to the divide

Companies such as SpaceX, Facebook and Huawei have been developing initiatives that address the digital divide for years even prior to the pandemic. However, new approaches will also be needed in the wake of the shifts brought on in 2020.

Government responses will be essential as we move into a new normal

The pandemic has induced widespread financial devastation. Addressing the digital divide will require national and sub-national resources to conquer both the divide and the pandemic together.

Fighting the digital divide will strengthen global connectivity as a whole

COVID-19 has likely forever changed the landscape of work and schooling. However, by highlighting disparities, it sets markets up to better meet the challenges of a future economy.

Introduction

Scope
Key findings

Defining the Digital Divide

What is the Digital Divide?
Internet penetration continues to improve globally
Pandemic social shifts put mobile-first individuals at a disadvantage

The Digital Divide: Barriers, Case Studies and Solutions

Identifying key factors contributing to the digital divide
Barriers: the urban/rural divide
Case study: Facebook to connect Africa through undersea cables
Barriers: income inequality
Barriers: disparity in quality of access
Telcos pursue various initiatives to help alleviate pandemic

Government Response to the Digital Divide

How emerging markets are responding to the digital divide
How developed markets are responding to the digital divide

The Digital Divide: Prospects

Internet penetration to reach 67% of the globe by 2025
Case study: SpaceX’s Starlink programme to extend global access
5G focus may undercut broadband incentives, prolong digital divide
Case study: Huawei takes 5G to the top of the mountain

The Effects of COVID-19 on the Digital Divide

How the COVID-19 crisis has influenced the digital divide
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