The Great Digital Divide

Why sustainability means collective action, bolder leadership, and smarter technologies

The ubiquity of digital technologies and internet access have been instrumental in transforming how people interact and work, and how companies operate and compete. However, not everyone has access to this connected world – there is still a very high percentage of people who are offline. In 2018, over half of the world’s population was finally using the internet. However, around 3.7 billion people remained offline.

The situation for these sizeable offline populations is becoming more difficult as jobs increasingly require digital skills and public services move online. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic – and the overwhelming shift of work and play to online mediums – has laid bare the challenges of underserved communities that live on the margins or outside of the digital world. While a lot of the attention paid to digital inequality focuses on developing countries, around 13% of the population in developed countries remains offline.

To better understand this situation, and to explore the factors that keep people offline, we launched an integrated global research study in five developed countries (France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and one developing country (India). In this research, we looked at three dimensions:

  • The offline population: We surveyed more than 1,300 people who are currently not online, using phone and face-to-face discussions.
  • The online population: We surveyed more than 3,700 people via an online survey.
  • The expert view: We conducted interviews with executives at 22 nonprofits, charities, NGOs, and private companies working in the digital inclusion space.

This report explores four key themes:

  • Why are people offline?
  • The consequences of being offline.
  • Why the offline population is keen to access the internet.
  • How organizations can support greater digital inclusion.

Alternatively, download the condensed report to the right.

The Great Digital Divide

File size: 1.56 MB File type: PDF

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