Washington D.C. headquartered World Bank released its annual World Development Report (WDR) titled “Digital Dividends” with a focal point on the impact of the Internet, mobile phones and communication technologies (ICTs) on economic development.
- The 350 plus page report by a 15 member team led by co-directors, Deepak Mishra and Uwe Deichmann took two years for completion.
- The WDR 2016 is an answer to two questions: why should we focus on promoting digital technologies and how to achieve the digital dividends.
The report noted that the internet, mobile phones and other digital technologies are accelerating its speed throughout the developing world but digital dividends of higher growth, more jobs and better public services have fallen short of expectations.
Why should we focus on promoting digital technologies?
The internet is having ability to reduce transaction costs which increases opportunities for people who face barriers in finding jobs or productive inputs.
- This promotes inclusion for women, for persons with disabilities and for people in remote areas.
- As an example, Kerala has set up the Kudumbashree project to outsource information technology services to cooperatives of women from poor families.
- The internet is also encouraging more cross-border exchanges of goods and services, allowing consumers and firms to bypass national borders.
How to achieve digital benefits?
Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world while digital dividends i.e. the broader development benefits from using these technologies have lagged behind.
- For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide especially in internet access.
- To get the most out of the digital revolution, countries also need to work on the “analog complements” by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses by adapting workers skills to the demands of the new economy and by ensuring that institutions are accountable.
Other Highlights with reference to India:
Indians are using their digital IDs called Aadhaar to open bank accounts, monitor attendance of civil servants and identify recipients of government subsidies.
- Aadhaar has saved approximately USD 1 billion (Rs. 650 crores) a year by reducing corruption and leakage for the Indian government. It is a help in fiscal budgeting.
- In public health services, simple SMS messages have proven effective in reminding people living with HIV to take their lifesaving drugs.
- The number of internet users worldwide has more than tripled since 2005, 4 billion people still lack access to the internet.
- China has the largest number of internet users, followed by the US, with India, Japan, and Brazil filling out the top five.
- The world’s offline population is mainly in India and China, but more than 120 million people are still offline in North America.
- Firms in India, Jamaica and Philippines have captured a share of global markets for services ranging from traditional back-office services to long-distance online tutoring.