Last month, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) held a conference in Geneva on Realising the potential of the internet to deliver global development and prosperity. While we were unable to attend, I have had a read of the conference report, which highlighted a few key issues:
- The digital divide: An ever present danger, whether working in the UK where seven million adults have never used the internet or in Ethiopia, which has one of the lowest internet connectivity rates in the world. There are almost always barriers to internet usage (whether physical, economic or social) and a carefully designed project must take these into account. The digital divide isn’t going anywhere just yet, so we need to be realistic about what we can and cannot do through the use of technology.
- Collaboration is key: Realising the internet’s potential requires a diverse set of actors from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors to work together. We wholeheartedly endorse the report’s finding that technology is not – and probably never can be a panacea – but that it can add a very useful dimension to growth and development.
- Anecdote is not evidence: Much of the work that has been done on investigating the internet’s contribution to social change is anecdotal. Yet rigorous, independent and statistically strong research is needed if we are to make a serious case for sustained, large-scale investment in technology. This is all the more pertinent where governments are being asked to invest large sums of public money into internet projects. To make a compelling case you need compelling evidence.
To read the remainder of the report and find out more, please click here.