The Digital Road From Poverty

What would happen if we brought broadband internet to 3 billion people in the developing world?

Clearly, the rapid rollout of broadband services has transformed the lives of people in the industrialized world, and there is every reason to expect that developing countries could benefit at least as much. It would enable a host of new enterprises and all the spillovers that come with it - more jobs, greater efficiency, bigger markets for goods and services, and faster innovation. It would also assist in achieving better outcomes in education, health and poverty reduction. In short, it would deliver a massive boost to GDP.

One of the biggest opportunities is in mobile technologies. Mobile phone use is already spreading rapidly in developing countries, avoiding the need for old-style fixed infrastructure, and data services can use the same system.

One scenario envisions we increase developing countries mobile broadband access from 21% in 2014 to 60% in 2030, bringing 3 billion people online over the next 15 years. Already by 2020, the benefits would be almost half a trillion annually, and these would increase further towards 2030. Over the coming decades the total benefit would reach about $22 trillion.

These eye-catching numbers come at significant cost - $1.3 trillion over 15 years. But it would be money well spent because every dollar invested returns $17 in benefits.

Read Lomborg's article in nine different languages on Project Syndicate
14 Jan 2015

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Project Syndicate