The International Handbook of Telecommunications Economics, Volume III
Edited by Gary Madden
Chapter 13: International efforts to bridge the digital divide: a global imperative
13. International eﬀorts to bridge the digital divide: a global imperative Bruno Lanvin If we fail, the poor will be the ﬁrst casualty. (James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank) INTRODUCTION Over the last two years, considerable and increasing attention has been devoted to the concept of ‘digital divide’. This has been the case in the more advanced countries, such as the United States, where government entities as well as non-proﬁt and private organizations have initiated speciﬁc actions and strategies to connect underprivileged suburbs, rural districts and isolated communities. The OECD has recently published a set of indicators and statistics describing digital disparities among its members. But the digital divide that has started to receive the greatest degree of attention in the recent past has been the one that separates rich countries from poorer ones. The main reason that explains this shift in international concerns is that the digital divide is becoming one of the most visible and most acute components of this developing divide. The very existence of such a divide, in an area in which advanced economies have witnessed spectacular ﬁnancial and productivity gains over the recent period, is a threat to global economic growth, international peace and security. Importantly, this digital divide is widening. As international bureaucrats and global pundits react with surprise (and sometimes shock) to the growing wave of anti-globalization movements, one cannot but wonder if this renewed attention to a long-standing problem (the lack of access by poorer nations to...
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