The COVID-19 Crisis:

Accentuating the Need to Bridge Digital Divides

The spread of the latest strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting economic and social life in multiple ways and dimensions.

This crisis is unfolding at a time characterized by rapid digitalization, which is helping in the decision-making process regarding response and adaptations to the situation by governments, businesses and consumers. However, differences in digital readiness hamper the ability of large parts of the world to take advantage of these technologies.

Multilateralism is vital in a world facing critical development challenges.


Crisis outbreak in a new digital landscape

  • Some comparisons with the situation at the time of the 2008 financial crisis help to illustrate how fast the digital landscape has changed.
  • While the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and the first Android versions in 2008, there are now more than 3.2 billion smartphone users.
  • The number of Internet users has surged from 1.6 billion to 4.1 billion, and Internet user penetration from 23% to 54%.
  • The number of Facebook users has grown from 100 million to 2.4 billion.
  • The number of online shoppers has more than doubled and the value of business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce has surged from less than $1 trillion to more than $3.8 trillion.
  • Global Internet Protocol traffic (a proxy for data flows) has surged from 4,000 GB per second to 100,000 GB per second.
  • The combined market value of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which was about $500 billion in 2008, peaked before the COVID-19 crisis erupted at more than $7.5 trillion.



The COVID-19 Crisis:  - Accentuating the Need to Bridge Digital Divides  (UNCTAD/DTL/INF/2020/1)
6 Apr 2020