Sunday, May 26, 2024

WEF | Schmidt: ?Almost all problems we debate can be solved by broadband?

Technology has enabled unequivocal social gains in recent years, technology leaders told participants at the on-going 45th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

From left: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Google executive chair Eric Schmidt, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
From left: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Google executive chair Eric Schmidt, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

In a session on ?The Future of Digital Economy?, they said that digital tools, from farming to healthcare to education, have fundamentally transformed communities and raised living standards around the world, and greater network connectivity has the potential to improve livelihoods even further.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said: ?Almost all of the problems we debate can be solved by more broadband connectivity.?

Schmidt cited broadband as the key public policy initiative that can promote social benefits ranging from good governance to education to human rights.

Despite this potential, there are a number of barriers to expanding access to digital technology globally. One of the biggest comes from market fragmentation and the rise of different standards that limit information flows.

High costs of bandwidth are another problem. Smartphone users in parts of the developed world pay higher data costs every day than some people in the developing world use for daily survival.

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft, said that in order to expand connectivity, ?there?s a consensus that low-cost bandwidth is a must?.

Ensuring that the gains of technology are distributed evenly is by no means guaranteed. Unless policy-makers and technologists take active measures to promote inclusion, women will not get the same opportunities.

Sheryl_Sandberg_

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer and member of the board at Facebook, said: It?s something that takes an active and, I think, different role than we?ve had before.?

She noted that currently more than half the Internet?s content is in English and that women typically receive access to smartphones later than men.

Looking ahead, Schmidt offered one prediction regarding the future of the Internet, namely that ?the Internet will disappear?.

He predicted that the growth of smart devices and the Internet of things will eliminate the barrier between being online and offline in the years ahead.

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