Inequalities threaten wider divide as digital economy data surges

By our News Team | 2021

Large power imbalances stalk the growing digital economy as major platforms reinforce their positions in the global data value chain.

The data-driven digital economy is surging. Recent estimates show that global internet data flows will more than triple between 2017 and 2022, according to the Digital Economy Report 2021 recently released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The pandemic has markedly increased internet traffic, as many activities have moved online. Global internet bandwidth rose by 35% in 2020, compared with 26% the previous year, the report says.

A growing part of data flows is related to mobile networks. With the increasing number of mobile devices and internet-connected devices, data traffic by mobile broadband is expected to account for almost one third of the total data volume by 2026, the report states.

Digital economy

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“But the data-driven digital economy is characterised by large imbalances and divides,” said UNCTAD’s Director of Technology and Logistics, Shamika N. Sirimanne. “As the digital economy grows, a data-related divide is compounding the digital divide.”

Developing countries in subordinate positions

In this new environment, developing countries risk becoming mere providers of raw data to global digital platforms, while having to pay for the digital intelligence obtained from their data, the report warns.

Only 20% of people in least developed countries (LDCs) use the internet, and when they do, it’s typically at relatively low download speeds and with a relatively high price tag attached, the report says.

Also, the average mobile broadband speed is about three times higher in developed countries than in LDCs. And while up to eight out of 10 internet users shop online in several developed countries, only less than one out of 10 do so in many LDCs.

International bandwidth use is geographically concentrated along two main routes: North America-Europe and North America-China.

New global data governance approach needed

As cross-border data flows become increasingly prominent in the digital economy, UNCTAD has called for a new approach to properly regulate them at the international level.

Currently, entities that can extract or collect data are in a privileged position to appropriate most of the value.

“A new international system to regulate data flows is needed so that associated benefits can be more equitably distributed,” said Sirimanne.

She said the world should pay adequate attention to the current divides that characterise the global digital economy – not only between countries, but also between states and enterprises.

While all countries will need to allocate more domestic resources to the development of their capacities to create and capture the value of data domestically, the report says, many developing countries may need international support due to their limited financial, technical and other resources.

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.