Smart cities are great but we also need smart villages

11. 10. 2021 Monday / By: Robert Denes / Generic / Exact time: BST / Print this page

C onnectivity is not a luxury, it is a fundamental right. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this clearer than ever. Connectivity allowed people to learn, shop, bank, socialize, access healthcare and, in many cases, work from home. For roughly 3.6 billion people around the world, however, all of that was impossible because they lacked even the most basic internet access.

How much of the $15 trillion the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the world may have lost in output due to COVID-19 could have been saved if everyone had access to the internet? What about the physical and mental health costs of being unconnected in an increasingly digital world? We must act now to bring unconnected communities online. Not just in smart cities, but in smart villages and smart townships.

The good news is that creative and ambitious solutions exist to help connect communities around the world. In El Salvador, for instance, a longstanding digital divide means only around half of the population uses the internet, while approximately two-thirds of public schools are offline. Fortunately, the country has recognized the toll this has taken on productivity, equality and education, and has made addressing it a top government priority.

We must act now to bring unconnected communities online. Not just in smart cities, but in smart villages and smart townships. — Pekka Lundmark, Nokia

The public and private sectors are working together to bring huge swathes of El Salvador’s public services online, with the aim of having broadband in every school by 2030, as well as extending it to other public services such as medical clinics, hospitals and police stations. This will not only vastly improve internet access, but also create the foundations for a modern digital economy.


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