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Advancing Meaningful Connectivity: Towards Active and Participatory Digital Societies

In this new report we describe how, while two in three people are now online according to the current definition of internet access, billions lack the meaningful connectivity they need to make the most of the internet.

This report is the first ever multi-country study of Meaningful Connectivity, a measure of whether someone can regularly access the internet on an appropriate device with sufficient data and a fast connection. 

The report advances the Meaningful Connectivity framework as a way to support more inclusive societies and strengthen digital economies. It measures the gap in the number of people with just basic internet access and those with meaningful connectivity, and examines what this digital divide means. 

This report looks at nine low and middle income countries (Colombia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda, India, Indonesia), using mobile phone surveys to estimate the number of people with meaningful connectivity in each. 

Key findings include: 

  • Across all nine surveyed countries, estimates of meaningful connectivity remain far behind national figures on internet use, underlining that there are large inequalities among those who are online, as well as between those with and without internet access.
  • There were large variations in the number of people with meaningful connectivity in the countries we studied, ranging from one in four people in Colombia to fewer than one in 160 Rwandans.
  • Consistently in all nine countries, urban internet users were more likely to have meaningful connectivity than rural internet users. The rural meaningful connectivity gap in Rwanda is 267% – meaning that Rwanda’s digital economy would need to grow another 2.5 times over exclusively in meaningfully connecting rural communities to close the urban/rural divide.
  • Men who are online are more likely to have meaningful connectivity than women who are online. These disparities exist even in countries that have closed the gender gap in basic access, such as South Africa and Colombia.
  • People with meaningful connectivity are around a third more likely to do essential activities online, like take a class or access healthcare

Meaningful connectivity offers enormous benefits to those who have it. 

As governments develop their broadband policies and national digital agendas with the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, meaningful connectivity offers a framework to set targets and ambitions for internet access that has an impact on individuals’ lives. 

Read the full report here.

Country briefs for the nine countries are also available below: