Internet access 19% in developing countries – UN report

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Only 19 percent of people in developing countries have access to the Internet, compared to 87 percent in developed countries, according to a new United Nations report.

Launched in New York, the World Social Report 2020 highlights growing inequality in several areas in both developed and developing societies.

The report, produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, warns that the situation could expand divisions, slow economic and social development and fuel political instability.

For instance, it notes that the “rapid and revolutionary technological breakthroughs’’ seen by the world in recent decades had given an edge to those with early access to those technologies.

This, it says, can worsen inequalities and widen education gaps “if they disproportionately help the children of the wealthiest’’.

“The rapid and revolutionary technological breakthroughs in recent decades have been a boon to skilled workers and workers who can upgrade their skills.

“But it has also taken a toll on low-skilled and medium-skilled workers in routine-intensive labour, whose jobs are increasingly being phased out or lost.

“This is because technologies are being captured by a small number of dominant countries,’’  the report submits.

According to the report, new technologies such as digital innovation and artificial intelligence are “opening vast opportunities for employment and engagement’’.

But their ability to promote sustainable development can only be realised if everyone has access to them, something that is not happening, thus creating digital divides, according to the report.

In the area of climate change, the report says, greenhouse emissions are increasing and global temperatures are rising, but the impacts of change are being felt unequally around the world.

Countries in the tropics are among the most adversely affected, says the report, adding that climate change has made the world’s poorest countries poorer.

It warns that the situation could drag millions of people into poverty in the next 10 years, if left unaddressed.

The report notes that just as climate change can increase inequality, “so can the policies designed to counter its effects.”

“As countries take climate action, it will be important to protect low-income households,’’  the report advises.

Amaka E. Nliam