Pandemic Highlights Fight Against “digital Poverty”: Professor

The coronavirus pandemic revealed the usefulness of digital tools and data when creating public policies, but it also highlighted the digital divide in societies, said Daniel Innerarity, professor of political philosophy. “One of the great aspects of the pandemic is that digitization was not egalitarian, it benefits those who are more qualified than those who are not,” Innerarity said in a virtual conference on Tuesday. The unequal distribution in access to internet services affects 32% of the population in Latin America, according to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank. The digital divide in the region is also affected by social and geographic inequalities: while 71% of the population in cities have connectivity options, only 37% in rural areas can access the internet, according to a report by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Along the same lines, 81% of households with the highest income in the region have an internet connection, compared to 38% of households with the lowest income, according to a ECLAC report.
For Innerarity, a researcher at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, the fight against digital inequalities is one of the main challenges facing today’s society. “If analog societies have been able to combat some types of poverty, now we have another battle (…) the fight against digital poverty that requires different mechanisms,” said the professor at the conference organized by the Organization of American States. The lack of internet access deepens existing gaps in access to health or education, said ECLAC in its report. “This low percentage limits or prevents access to teleworking, online education and electronic health services, as well as other goods and services offered by public platforms and institutions, which widens the pre-existing gaps,” the report explains. The digital divide, however, is not the same in all the countries of the region: in Brazil and Chile, more than 60% of households with lower incomes have an Internet connection, while in Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, only 3 % have it, argues ECLAC. The OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, who introduced the professor to the virtual conference, assured that digital tools can “serve to strengthen the rule of law” and help find solutions to inequalities. “In our region, the most unequal, we need innovative solutions to reduce social gaps, exclusion and discrimination,” said Almagro. Governing is increasingly an “algorithmic thing” The COVID-19 pandemic has also put governments’ data and digital tools to the test and demonstrated that many modern affairs require governance that goes beyond “decrees”, said Innerarity. “The pandemic has been a test of whether our data collection system, classification of infections (…) was up to the task,” said the researcher. As the use of technological tools expands in society and in states, governing is increasingly “an alogritimic question,” Innerarity said. “There are many issues in the world today that require more complex governance. They are not going to be easily governable with government decrees (…) they are going to require deliberation, intelligent systems, measurement, data collection”, said the expert. Connect with the ! Subscribe to our channel Youtube

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