By Anne Morris
Connectivity en route to becoming a human right
Around 2.7 billion people still do not have access to the internet and without connectivity this digital divide risks further exacerbating inequality, according to Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“For example, we are facing a stark digital gender divide, with 69 per cent of men having access to the internet, versus 63 per cent of women globally. Among Least Developed Countries (LDCs), this gap is even greater with 43 per cent access for men versus merely 30 per cent for women,” said Opp, citing figures from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Opp pointed out that this in itself is contrary to the human right to non-discrimination and equality.
“Access to the internet has been identified as a key priority and pre-requisite for governments even though it is yet to be codified as a fundamental right in international or domestic law,” he said.
The UNDP has observed that countries around the world see connectivity as an urgent need that will also help them achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) more quickly. However, one of the main challenges is that many governments lack the knowledge, talent, and investment to provide universal connectivity.
“The sheer financial implications alone are challenging enough for many of the countries UNDP supports,” Opp remarked.
He said partnerships between the public sector, private sector and civil society as well as between countries are key to addressing some of these obstacles.