Monday, July 15, 2024

World Bank exec warns of widening digital divide in PH

The World Bank Group senior digital development specialist Naoto Kanehira has highlighted the growing digital divide in the Philippines, underscoring the widening gap in Internet access between different income groups.

In a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) to celebrate National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Month, Kanehira cited data from its recent policy note, revealing that while households in higher income quintiles have seen significant improvements in broadband access, lower-income households continue to struggle with limited connectivity.

He warned that this disparity has widened substantially from a 26 percent gap in 2019 to an alarming 42 percent in 2022. “Digital divide must not grow into broader development divides,” said Kanehira, who holds an MPA from Harvard University and an MSc in Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kanehira emphasized the crucial role of government intervention in ensuring universal Internet access, akin to the provision of electricity and safe drinking water.

He called for comprehensive market reforms and strategic public-private partnerships to enhance competition within the telecommunications sector.

Currently, the market is dominated by just two major operators, leading to high prices and low service quality.

Kanehira advocated for removing barriers to market entry and investing in infrastructure to support widespread internet access.

“The digital divide in the Philippines is a pressing issue that requires immediate and coordinated action,” he stressed.

He also recommended a higher annual budget for the DICT to achieve digital inclusivity. He noted that while private sector efforts have been substantial, public policies and investments must address and fill in their limitations.

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