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Report: Digital Poverty Slows Economic Growth

Britain's Prince Charles talks to a computer student at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School for Adults in Washington, March 19, 2015.

A new report says many countries are failing to improve economic growth and living standards because of – what’s called – digital poverty.

The World Economic Forum has released its Global Information Technology Report for 2015. It said that the “full economic and social benefits of the internet are only available to a minority of the world’s population.” It added that many countries are failing to implement basic reforms that could increase productivity and boost their economies.

Thierry Geiger, senior economist for the World Economic Forum and co-editor of the report, said, “Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access or due to the lack of skills. It is really a form of poverty because without digital access, without digital skills, you cannot tap into the huge potential of technology to improve your lives and create opportunities.”

He said that technology is vital for development and not a luxury to be considered after addressing other issues.

The report’s preface said, “The 2015 edition of The Global Information Technology Report is released at a time when many economies around the world are struggling to ensure that economic growth is equitable and provides benefits for their entire populations. Advanced economies have not yet reached their full potential and they struggle with persistently high unemployment, rising inequalities, and fiscal challenges. Emerging markets and developing economies are facing stronger headwinds than before and need to adjust their development models to ensure economic growth and a more broad-based distribution of gains.”

Geiger said, “Technology can really, really accelerate development in low income economies and more advanced economies. And we believe that this should be taken really seriously. And the truth is that everybody believes that technology is everywhere, but it is not and we’re missing out on huge opportunities.”

The report ranks Singapore as the top country among 143 in “leveraging information and communication technologies (ICTs) for social and economic impact.”

Besides Singapore, the top 10 includes Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Japan.

The worst countries for ICT usage are Chad, Guinea, Burundi, Angola, Myanmar, Mauritania, Haiti, Yemen, Madagascar and Timor-Leste.

To hear the full interview with Geiger conducted by Joe De Capua, click on the link below.

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