SEATTLE — The ways in which reliable Internet can help people emerge from poverty are endless. These include an ease of access to education, information on reproductive health, jobs, and the tools for starting a small business — just to name a few. In fact, universal inclusive Internet access is now widely considered to be a human right. Arguably, Internet access may just be one of the most important tools to help end poverty throughout the world.
When it comes to solving the problem of access to education in the developing world, reliable Internet access is leading the way. In Africa, for example, eLearnAfrica is committed to increasing and expanding education and professional development opportunities across the continent. From individual courses, to test prep, tutoring, and full degrees, eLearnAfrica uses the Internet to bring the best learning from colleges and universities around the world to students in Africa.
The Internet is also essential for students looking for help to finance their education. In addition to traditional loan sites, informative sites like After School Africa are loaded with detailed and timely information about how, when, and where to apply for hundreds of academic scholarships.
According to the U.N.’s Population Fund (2016), “Good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters related to the reproductive system.” Of course, people must also be able to access this type of information from accurate and reliable sources. Along with Internet access, state-of-the-art reproductive health applications like Natural Cycles and Maven Clinic can help women throughout the developing world educate themselves in all areas of sexual and reproductive health. Men too can benefit from the Internet when it comes to reproductive health. The smartphone app iCondom, for example, helps users locate the nearest open store to purchase a condom before sex.
With inclusive Internet access, finding a job or starting a business can easily turn from a dream into a reality — even for people living in the developing world. For example, with reliable Internet, job seekers can create a profile on LinkedIn and communicate with like-minded individuals across the globe. Additionally, smartphone applications like CityHour and JobCompass give users the ability to search and apply for jobs, anywhere, any day, anytime.
When it comes to starting a business, inclusive Internet access is almost all one really needs. Independent drivers with Uber, for example, only require Internet access and a vehicle to utilize the company’s start-up toolkit and become a real-life entrepreneur. Ever since 2012, independent Uber businesses have been sprouting up all over the world, even in parts of Africa.
So, who is working to make inclusive Internet access a true reality for people living in the developing world? On December 2016, the Internet Governance Forum was held in Guadalajara, Mexico. The forum provided the opportunity for government officials and representatives from the private sector to discuss issues related to Internet governance and public policy. Part of their resolution emphasized the need for inclusive access to information on the Internet that would facilitate “vast opportunities for affordable and inclusive education globally.”
Clearly, inclusive Internet access can help bring millions out of poverty. The world’s economy also stands to benefit substantially. In fact, according to a recent report, with universal access to the Internet, 500 million people could emerge from poverty and an additional $6.7 trillion could be pumped into the global economy. While there are still some obstacles to overcome, inclusive Internet access around the world is one goal everyone should make a commitment to help see through.
– Ashley Henyan