People are working from home more than ever due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Access to the internet while working remotely is essential to keeping or looking for jobs, as well as for contacting friends and family people may otherwise not be able to see during social distancing restrictions. For those in more vulnerable economic positions, the lack of internet could significantly compound bad economic situations.
In a recent poll from Gallup, just 24 percent of those in highly vulnerable economic situations had access to internet in some form across the world. Less than half labeled as moderately vulnerable had internet access, while nearly 75 percent of those in low vulnerability had internet access.
Economic vulnerability is defined by Gallup as having times during the past year where a person or household was unable to afford basic food or shelter requirements. High vulnerability also refers to those who didn’t have a safety net of friends or family to help them during difficult economic situations.
Regardless of economic vulnerability status, developed countries were much more likely to have a majority of people of any social or economic class with access to internet. In developing countries, just 21 percent of those labeled as high economic vulnerability had access to internet.
The lack of internet access in rural and impoverished regions of the world has kept hundreds of millions at a disadvantage for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only exacerbating these recurring technological issues. The pandemic and resulting economic crises could serve as catalysts for the widespread implementation of internet infrastructure that these areas desperately need.