The Great Digital Divide

Why bringing the digitally excluded online should be a global priority

Mind the digital gap

Until a few weeks ago, the importance of the internet as a social-economic equalizer was fairly obvious. But today, with a pandemic raging across the globe, separating families and decimating economies, it is absolutely paramount. Yet roughly half of the world’s population remains offline, with potentially dire consequences. Organizations, both private and public, can and must work to change that. But how?

Significant implications

We wanted to find out. In the latest, comprehensive research from the Capgemini Research Institute – The Great Digital Divide: Why bringing the digitally excluded online should be a global priority, we spoke to more than 1,300 people who are currently not online, and to over 3,700 people who are online. We also interviewed executives at 22 non-profits, charities, NGOs, and private companies working in the digital inclusion space.

  • Surprisingly, younger people constitute the largest share of the offline population in our research.
  • Cost, complexity, and a perceived “lack of interest” keep people offline.
  • Being offline has significant social and economic implications today.
  • The offline population is eager to get online.

We can ill afford to ignore

Bridging the digital divide requires collaboration and leadership from private organizations, governments, NGOs, non-profits, and academia. Private organizations should invest in digital inclusion as part of their CSR agendas, educate people on how to stay safe online, and recruit from marginalized communities. Policymakers and governments should make the internet, devices, and online public services more accessible to marginalized communities. Private organizations and policymakers together should focus on public-private partnerships and educate disadvantaged offline populations about the value of the internet. If the public and private sectors fail to work effectively together, the digital divide will continue to create inequalities across the world. This is something we can ill afford.

To know more about Capgemini’s action on the topic, visit the Digital Inclusion page.

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Sound Bites

Jean Deydier, founder and president, Emmaus Connect

Everyone is responsible for bridging the divide. Private enterprises and digital companies – as well as public services and government – all have a role to play.

Frédéric Bardeau, founder, Simplon

Being able to connect digitally is very important because many states, governments, and local agencies have moved online. The only way you have to access your rights is digital now. So, if you are not connected – or if you have no basic digital literacy – you cannot access your social services, benefits and transfers. In other words, what is rightfully yours.

Sally West, policy manager, Age UK

There can be a range of issues for the older population. Part of it is not being brought up in a digital world. Health issues to a certain extent can also be a driver for non-use.

Key Takeaways


of offline people aged 22 to 36 say the cost of a device is the reason they have never used the internet


of all offline people in poverty say they have never used the internet because a subscription is too expensive


say the computer or mobile phone needed to access it is too expensive

About the Capgemini Research Institute

Capgemini Research Institute

Capgemini’s #1 ranked in-house think tank on all things digital


Lucie Taurines

Digital Inclusion, CSR, Financial Services

Claudia Crummenerl

Expert in Change Management and HR Transformation, Human Resource, Workforce Transformation

Jean-Baptiste Perrin

Expert in Innovation Strategy

Marisa Slatter

Expert in Strategy & Transformation

Amrita Sengupta

Expert in HR Transformation, Research