Former Brookings Expert
Director of Data, Research and Policy - UNICEF
The 2015 Brookings Blum Roundtable was convened to explore how digital technologies might disrupt global development.
Our intention was to imagine a world 10 years from now where digital technologies have become ubiquitous. In this world, how would we expect digital trends and innovations to affect the work of business and development organizations? What policy challenges and risks will the new digital economy pose? And what are the constraints on making digital innovations fully inclusive and scalable?
In 10 years, the world will look very different from today. The number of people worldwide who own a telephone, have access to the Internet, have registered their biometric identity, and own a bank account is rising by between 200 million and 300 million a year. These technologies are spreading at such a high speed that an era of digital
inclusion beckons, characterized by universal connectivity and the frictionless movement of money and information.
History attests to the transformative effects of technology. And there is every reason to believe that the impact of digital technologies will be especially profound. The spread of mobile telephones already represents perhaps the most conspicuous change for life in the developing world over the past generation. However, the impact of digital technologies on people’s well-being can be both positive and negative. The onus is on developing countries and the broader global development community to maximize the upside of digital inclusion, while managing its downside, in navigating this exciting future.
This essay discusses the opportunities provided through increased financial inclusion, cashless payments and the application of other payment technologies as well as the possible obstacles that stand in their way. It finds that customers are more likely to use digital services if there is also a human component, such as an agent or a calling center, to boost trust.
This essay describes the positive and negative impacts of Internet connectivity for societies, and examines why so many people who live in places with access to the Internet are not users, and what possible options are to get more people online.
This essay explores how digital inclusion increases knowledge by providing access to information, generating big data, and by expanding access to online education. It describes how to use this knowledge to maximize benefits for the poor.