Unequal Internet Access and Usage Could Hold Back Potential of Digital Economy, Says OECD


The internet is faster, cheaper and more widely accessible than ever, and usage of digital tools is growing. But progress is uneven. Broadening access to digital opportunities and helping those lagging behind to catch up would increase the benefits of the digital transformation, according to a new OECD report.

Broadening access to digital opportunities and helping those lagging behind to catch up would increase the benefits of the digital transformation and help ensure they are widely shared across economies and people, according to a new OECD report. “The digital transformation is not happening at the same pace across countries, companies and households, and this translate into unequal opportunities,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, presenting the report at a meeting of the OECD Global Parliamentary Network in Paris. “We must empower our citizens and businesses for the digital world by providing everyone with affordable access to digital tools and the skills to use them fully.”

The OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2017 says government policy has not kept pace with the digital innovation and transformation of economies and societies led by big technology firms. It highlights thatcountries need to step up their efforts, invest more in education and skills and encourage greater use of advanced technologies like big data analysis and cloud computing, in particular by small businesses, to make the digital shift more productive and inclusive. 

Access to the Internet is growing, average speeds are faster and prices are falling. Yet mobile data usage – a key driver of the digital economy as people increasingly use mobile applications for messaging, transport, maps and video streaming services – is growing much faster in some countries than others, with Finland and Latvia in particular pulling far ahead of the pack.
In terms of overall Internet usage, 97% or more of the population used the Internet in 2016 in Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg and Norway while 60% or less did so in Mexico and Turkey. Over 95% of 16-24 year-olds went online versus less than 63% of 55-74 year-olds.
In 2016, 95% of OECD country firms had high-speed Internet, up from 86% in 2010, with the biggest increases in Mexico, Latvia and Poland. Yet there are big gaps between large and small firms, particularly in Mexico, Greece, Poland and Turkey. Small firms also lag behind in their use of advanced tools such as big data analysis and cloud computing.
As well as revealing digital inequalities, the report recommends governments review labor laws, trade agreements and other legislation to take account of job displacement, the emergence of new forms of work and the evolving trade landscape. It calls on governments to also work together to tackle digital security and privacy risks amid increasing concerns about data breaches and security incidents that risk weighing on uptake of digital services.

For more information, media should contact Ashlyn Sawyer.  


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