The Digital Road From Poverty

With the Internet such an important resource in the modern world, broadband has become a vital technology, promising to boost economic growth, lift people out of poverty, and improve their health, nutrition, and education. When governments finalize the next global development targets, broadband access deserves to be among them.

COPENHAGEN – Where should the global community focus its attention over the next 15 years? Health, nutrition, and education may seem like obvious choices; more surprisingly, there is a strong case for making broadband access a top priority.

Consider this simple fact: Tripling mobile Internet access over the next 15 years could make the developing world $22 trillion richer. Such improvement in the lives and earning potential of poor people could indirectly help with the other challenges; after all, more prosperous people tend to be healthier, better fed, and more highly educated.

This discussion matters, because the world’s 193 national governments will meet at the United Nations in September to finalize a list of development targets for the world to meet by 2030. My think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus, has asked 60 teams of economists, including several Nobel laureates, to investigate which targets would do the most good for every dollar spent, to help this meeting make the best choices.