Connectivity and development - and basic human rights?

Tuesday, 7 January, 2014

Yesterday’s Guardian ‘Poverty Matters’ blog covered Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg’s notion that connectivity ‘is a basic human right,’ and in doing so provided a remarkable summary of many of the measures that - quietly reported though they might have been - are likely to have a pretty significant impact on the near-term future of development and business in emerging economies. It's well worth a read if only for the catalogue of profound change that has taken place in the last year.

While the question of whether or not connectivity is a human right has far-reaching and important implications, in some ways it’s a moot point. As mobile coverage increases all over the world, connectivity becomes sexier and more desirable, smartphones proliferate and - fundamentally - the moneymaking opportunities implicit in all of this are more and more obvious, what’s undeniable is that connectivity is a basic human desire. And it’s a desire strong enough to overcome a diverse range of financial and practical impediments. From crisismapping to crowdsourcing, the range of humanitarian initiatives that have made connectivity a core part of operations is huge and increasing; and this is no longer just the preserve of short-term response work, it's overlapping more and more with longer-term development initiatives.

What will it mean when the majority of people have not only access to communication that a decade or so would have been denied them, but also to the internet and all that implies?  Mobile for development is no new field; useful sources of data on coverage and net use in the developing world include the World Bank (relevant info is under the 'infrastructure' heading on that link) and and Mobile for Development Intelligence.  We’re no forecasters here at CSR21 but we do feel it’d be a fool who’d ignore this enormous - if quiet - shift in favour of clinging to old models. Health, economics, development - the implications are huge for all of these and in CSR as in all things, the most successful initiatives will be those that take note and adapt.