We live in a time of amazing technological transformation.
The advancement of global communication since the invention of the internet 25 years ago, is a gift of "connectedness" to information, knowledge, commerce and people that has transformed societies, industries, governments and the lives of billions of people.
With all of it's imperfections, it's easy to take for granted and even criticize (in a developed world) the great gift of modern-day connectivity which has made our lives easier, more productive and prosperous in so many ways.
Twenty-five years and a generation of change!
Most young people in the developed world (screen-agers) have never known a life without the instant gratification of socializing (without being social) nor a life without immediate access to information, knowledge and entertainment in the palm of their hands.
Yet, we must not overlook the disparity in the fact that 4.3 billion people in the world lack basic access to what we now see as a fundamental right of being "connected." This lack of access impacts the delivery and progress of healthcare, financial and social inclusion, education and other important human rights.
I'm inspired by the work of many NGOs and organizations like the UNDP, the World Bank and numerous initiatives like Internet.org and mPowering Action that are working hard to bridge this gap, by building capacity through partnerships and collations to bring basic and affordable technical access to the internet and other social and economic service to the parts of the world that are most in need.
A recent study commissioned by Facebook (as part of internet.org) shines an important light on how basic and affordable access to the internet and internet services can change the lives of the billions of people in developing countries, significantly improving health, education and sustainable economic development.
The study found that by expanding internet access in developing countries to levels seen today in developed economies, productivity would increase by as much as 25 percent, generating $2.2 trillion in GDP and more than 140 million new jobs, lifting 160 million people out of poverty.
The report also found that increased internet access would deliver critical information on nutrition, hygiene and disease prevention to billions of people. Once connected, people gain access to basic tools like health information, financial services and education that can help them live fuller, better lives and join the worldwide economy.
Below are two charts from this important study representing the impacts should the developing world have the same access to the internet as the developed world. The full report can be found here.
Corporate leaders need to prioritize and adequately resource the funding, commitment and delivery of social investment and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that advance the health, education and economic prosperity where they operate today and where they hope to be, tomorrow. This is just good business.
Governments must encourage and participate in public/private partnerships through the delivery of policies, incentives and commitments that bring together expertise, capital and technology (across sectors) required to safely advance their communities - small and large. If we don't take adequate action, we limit progress and guarantee enormousness poverty and stress on our global ecosystem.
Today we are in a world of seven billion people. By 2050 we we will be in a world of nine billion people.