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Want Africa to grow? Get people and businesses online: Africa expert

There's a big opportunity for African countries to take advantage of the pandemic — if they can get online. "Greater internet connectivity can accelerate growth in tremendous ways," says Eurasia Group's top Africa analyst Amaka Anku. One of them would be formalizing the informal sector, which is very large and hard to tax: "It's much easier if people are paying using digital payments," she explains, but governments also need to do their part by cutting red tape to encourage investment.

Anku weighed in during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly.

Learn more: Should internet be free for everyone? A Global Stage debate

How can we bridge the "digital Grand Canyon"?

The UN likes to say that having half the world's population offline is like a "digital Grand Canyon" of exclusion. So, how can we bridge it? The International Communications Union's Doreen Bogdan-Martin says that the only way is to get all concerned parties — the UN, governments, international institutions, the private sector, and civil society — to work together. "No one can do this alone. We need all hands on deck."

Bogdan-Martin weighed in during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly.

Learn more: Should internet be free for everyone? A Global Stage debate

Make internet affordable, but not free for all

Free internet for everyone sounds great, but what's really important is for it to be accessible, says Vickie Robinson, head of Microsoft's Airband Initiative to expand broadband access throughout the developing world. The problem, she explains, is that it costs money to build and maintain networks, so no costs for end users could have unintended consequences. "If you have a framework in which the internet is free for all, do we lose some freedoms? Do we lose innovation? Do we lose the use of the internet as a tool for empowerment?" Instead, Robinson would focus only on giving access to people who really need it and can't afford to be online.
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We'll never fix America's internet without measuring access properly, says FCC chair

Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chair of the US Federal Communications Commission, says mapping the real state of America's broadband access is flawed because a single subscriber in a rural area doesn't mean everyone is online. "You don't have to be a data maven to understand that that likely overstates service," she notes, and underscores the need to develop more accurate systems. "We're never going to manage the problems we don't measure."

Rosenworcel weighed in during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly.

Learn more: Should internet be free for everyone? A Global Stage debate

Should internet be free for everyone? A Global Stage debate

Half of the world's population is currently offline, and COVID has further widened the digital gap. Providing more than three billion people with affordable, reliable internet access sounds like a no-brainer, but the devil is in the details. Who'll pay for it, how do we measure success, who should be on board, and what are the potential benefits?

Several experts weighed in during a Global Stage virtual conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly, moderated by the UN's Melissa Fleming.


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