Internet connectivity is the lifeblood of the modern economy, as neither individuals nor nations can generate serious growth without the assistance of digital technology in this day and age. Internet connectivity issues are thus a major economic impediment in parts of the world where connectivity is lacking, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Asia. A vast digital chasm exists in Asia between certain technologically advanced nations and others which are beset by countless connectivity problems that plague growth, national unity, and regional stability.
Internet inequality within certain nations also threatens long-term regional growth and the uplifting of millions who still struggle with poverty. Fixing Asia’s connectivity problem must be at the forefront of our global priorities if we intend to emerge from the 21st century as a wealthier, healthier, and more prosperous human family.
COVID-19 has highlighted internet inequality
Internet inequality and connectivity problems were rife in Asia before the spread of COVID-19 upset global economic growth and jeopardizing the health of millions, but now these issues are more obvious than ever before. With many people relying on digital services in order to effectively socially-distance themselves for days, weeks, or months at a time, the stark reality of internet inequality has become undeniable. In technology reliant Japan, for example,internet usage has surged as students take courses online, professionals work from home, and social-distancing individuals rely on streaming services for entertainment in huge numbers due to the spread of the coronavirus.
All of Asia, and indeed all of the world, is more dependent upon the steady flow of data these days than perhaps ever before. While internet service providers and governments both vow that they will be capable of dealing with this surge in digital demand, there’s no denying that unequal access to the internet is a serious problem that is unlikely to be remedied in the midst of a massive public health pandemic that’s draining many budgets across the region. This is terrible news for Asia’s long-term economic growth, as there’s no denying that low internet access is a primary driver of economic and social inequality around the world.
Without ample access to the internet, entrepreneurs find it difficult to access global markets. Students will struggle to achieve their full educational attainment if they struggle to access their coursework or take online quizzes. Even everyday individuals who are simply trying to watch movies or their favorite TV shows on their favorite streaming service will run into frustrating lag and lackluster image quality. To solve these issues and others which arise from connectivity issues, Asian nations must work together to close the digital chasm that exists across the region when it comes to internet access.
Confronting the digital divide
Asia is beset by a massive digital divide that prevents the less privileged from easily accessing the world wide web and the plethora of opportunities that it presents to its users. According to a compelling column written by Reynaldo Lugtu Jr. in the Manilla Times, the digital divide is perhaps best defined as the “discrepancy in access to technology resources, particularly the internet, between socioeconomic groups.” As Lugtu points out, this divide literally kills individuals as they embark upon perilous exercises like climbing aloft to dangerously high perches in search of a smoother internet connection that is usually unavailable..
In the digital age, internet inequality is a primary driver of economic inequality and lackluster growth, but few public officials in Asia have shown an adequate commitment to solving the problem. Internet inequality between various nations is growing worse by the year; technological hubs like Singapore and certain parts of China may very well keep expanding upon the digital advantages they possess over other nations like Vietnam or Pakistan. As the IMF points out, hundreds of millions of young people are eager to join the revolution in many of these lesser privileged nations but cannot due to glaring connectivity problems and unequal access to digital resources.
Connectivity issues can be addressed, however, by tapping into novel innovations like System73’s AI-enabled multi-CDNs, which promise to reshape how we conceive of internet connections in the world of tomorrow. Content delivery networks that are supercharged with the help of intelligent machines will ensure that Asia’s digital users are geographically closer to the data they seek, which will, in turn, grant them faster loading times while doing away with connectivity conundrums.
AI will make it easier to connect
Artificial intelligence will ensure that the digital future of Asia isn’t defined by inequality. Governments in nations such as Malaysia are already striving to narrow the digital divide between rural and urban areas, but this quest can only be accomplished with the assistance of AI and other nascent technologies which make it more affordable to reshape digital infrastructure on a timely basis. Entrepreneurs like William Erbey, are part of a growing network of entrepreneurs finding cutting-edge and economic ways to ease congestion. System 73’s ‘Kuno Stream’, for example, aims to reshape digital infrastructure by innovating hubs and nodes that correspond with one another in efficient and environmentally friendly ways.
Erbey is optimistic about AI’s future in supporting the internet economy as saying that, “[s]oftware, including AI, as opposed to hardware will allow the growth of video streaming to continue.”
Indian based companies like Myelin Foundry are also already hard at work churning out next-generation AI solutions to improve the bandwidth of local communities. Governments would do well to encourage the continued entrepreneurial development of AI-based solutions to our connectivity problems, as this is an issue so large that the public sector can’t tackle it alone. In time, we’ll come to see that fixing Asia’s connectivity problem and diminishing internet inequality is the best way to ensure the future prosperity of the entire region and the broader world.