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Access to digital technologies can empower poor and disadvantaged people, create jobs and widen access to health and educational services. But the first step must be to find digital applications that solve practical problems and make a difference to people’s lives.
That was the message of a Friends of Europe Development Policy Forum event on 7 November, where development actors and technology experts discussed how the digital revolution is impacting international development – and how it could have an event greater impact in the future.
The digital revolution is transforming the world. While it is often regarded with trepidation in industrialised countries, where it is seen as a potential destroyer of jobs, digitisation should be unambiguously a positive force in the developing world. Access to digital technologies and the Internet can empower the world’s poor and disadvantaged people, creating jobs and allowing more women to participate in the labour market. It means that people can transfer money quickly and efficiently, and it provides millions with access to health and educational facilities.
As a result, digitisation is already having a strong impact on the global development agenda, and it could become an even more powerful force for change and growth in the coming years. New, digitally-controlled machines such as drones are also becoming tools for development activities in areas such as conservation, health, transportation and data collection. They are also aiding humanitarian work in developing countries, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters.
“Digitisation is changing the way we approach development,” said moderator Shada Islam, Director for Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe. “It is being turned upside down by the digital revolution.”