Contrary to common expectations, the rural-urban digital divide in terms of basic Internet access the OECD is not large, with the exception of a few countries such as Mexico and Turkey. Reducing the urban-rural digital coverage gap has been a policy priority of many OECD countries in recent years, with many setting national targets to meet this objective. Many countries are now looking to enhance connectivity to other areas of economy and society that are “going digital.” For instance, Canada, the United Kingdom, and European Union refer to railways, highways and roads in their connectivity plans. Many feel vulnerable while travelling without any coverage and so expanding coverage to these areas also a matter of emergency and security on roads. Other areas where enhanced connectivity are important are anchor institutions, such as schools and hospitals, which often require more intense capacity in terms of bandwidth and reliability, given the sensitivity of the activities performed (such as telemedicine) and the number of users serviced.
Going forward, rural users will have a more prominent role to play as data producers. A central question is how to match the evolving demand for digital services when people are no longer only consumers of data but also producers of data. Forthcoming work by the OECD’s Science and Technology Directorate provides an overview of some of the policy tools, technological trends, and good practices on this matter (including those that may emerge from pilot studies currently ran by digital companies such as Google and Facebook). You can follow @OECDinnovation for updates.
For more information on this work please contact Lorrayne Porciuncula, Internet economist/policy analyst STI Lorrayne.PORCIUNCULA@oecd.org