Advancements in technology are rapidly transforming how we work, communicate, access information, and educate our children. Artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and block chain can be powerful tools for solving the world’s most difficult challenges.
However, 3.9 billion people won’t be able to take advantage of these technologies’ full potential unless we first solve a more basic, critical problem: access to the internet. This is a challenge more commonly associated with developing countries, but it also impacts 19.4 million people in rural America. In these areas, students struggle to complete homework, farmers are unable to reach markets, small businesses can’t reach their customers, and parents aren’t able to access healthcare technologies like telemedicine for their families.
Without access to broadband, entire communities will be left behind in the progress big tech companies are making. The good news is that with the focus of the public and private sectors, we can close the digital divide using a mix of existing technologies—and at a cost far below current estimates.
Broadband has become an essential part of 21st-century infrastructure. New cloud services are making it a necessity to starting and growing small businesses, as well as advancing industries as varied as education, health care, agriculture, small-business development, and humanitarian response. Without access to the internet, unconnected communities are at a disadvantage, and the digital divide will continue to grow wider.
Not just for surfing
Internet access is also transforming industries in unexpected ways. If we want to make global impact in areas such as food production and disaster relief, we’re going to need to connect as many people as possible.
Data-enabled farming has the potential to change the way we feed the planet and assist small-scale farmers in enhancing their livelihoods.