What do digital technology and international cooperation have in common? If we look at internet access statistics, the answer would appear to be ‘very little’. The vast majority of the 3.9 billion people who are still offline are in what is known as the ‘global South’. Two billion women still have no internet access. Nine out of ten young people with no internet access live in Asia, Africa or the Pacific region. The inequality between North and South that we already see in areas such as health care, education and nutrition – and which we refuse to accept – is mirrored in the field of digital technology. People like Nanjira Sambuli are determined to change this. The Kenyan works for the World Wide Web Foundation, whose aim is to connect more people to the internet. In her article – starting on page 18 – Sambuli calls for internet access for all.
Lots and lots of people should benefit from digitalisation. Nobody should be excluded because of a lack of technology or due to social factors. The United Nations shares this standpoint: in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN sets the goal of achieving universal and affordable internet access by 2020. But this goal can no longer realistically be attained, as shown by the diagram illustrating the digital divide on page 26.
Would universal internet access make everything better? It is obviously not a panacea. In the magazine ‘trendradar_2030’, published in 2017 (trendradar.org/de/trendradar-2030), the scientist and expert in future technologies and trends Axel Zweck urges us to reflect on the impacts of every trend on humanity. Values play an important part in this. We must consider what we want a trend to be able to do, and what it might do to us. There can be no doubt that internet access initially brings more information and greater economic opportunities. But it is not only a blessing. Organisations like UNICEF have been warning us for some time of the downside of internet consumption. While parents in industrialised countries worry that their children are becoming isolated and depressive as a result of excessive internet use, that they are falling victim to bullying or abuse, parents in developing countries would do much to give their children the chance to access the internet.
That’s our world for you. And that is why we need an in-depth debate about the opportunities offered by digitalisation – and the inherent risks. The debate should be global and should involve as many voices as possible from every country in the world. We hope that our akzente articles inspire you to reflect on your own position on the matter.