puliti2_In Pictures Ltd.Corbis via Getty Images_nigeria internet access In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

The World Needs a Digital Lifeline

With the world facing multiple crises, policymakers need to mobilize digital connectivity to improve the daily welfare of the most vulnerable people. But innovation is moving so fast that many officials, especially in developing countries, are finding it hard to keep up.

WASHINGTON, DC – In periods of crisis, digital technologies provide a lifeline that keeps people, communities, and businesses functioning. From the COVID-19 pandemic to violent conflicts and natural disasters, being connected has allowed us to continue working, learning, and communicating.

How policymakers have responded to these emergencies has played a large part. In particular, as new paper by the World Bank Group’s Development Committee shows, more agile regulation has accelerated digitalization and unleashed innovation. In today’s global context of several overlapping crises, this needs to become the norm. Secure and resilient internet infrastructure is a fundamental necessity.

During the pandemic, as more and more of our lives went online, internet usage spiked worldwide. In 2020, 800 million people went online for the first time, and 58 low- and middle-income countries used digital payments to deliver COVID-19 relief. To manage that surge, governments and regulators in more than 80 countries moved quickly to change rules, including those governing the allocation of radio spectrum – the electromagnetic waves used for wireless communications. In Ghana, regulators assigned temporary radio spectrum to networks in high demand, and all mobile-service providers were granted permission to expand coverage. This resulted in better-quality service for more than 30 million mobile subscribers, letting them “go” to work, learn online, and access essential services.