A debate is currently waging around whether free internet access should be considered as a basic human right. Proponents believe that free access to the web is fundamental to expression and a healthy democracy. While the jury is still out on that front, there is no denying that digitization has far-reaching benefits for the realm of public service.
Take e-governance, for example. Speedier, more cost-effective services aside, e-governance initiatives empower citizens and provides access to public services. From paying for taxes and bills to renewing passports, governments from all over the world have embraced digital transformation and transferred basic public services online. For emerging economies like Africa with high internet penetration, but poor public service infrastructure, e-governance is proving to be a huge boon.
Education is another area that will benefit from digitisation. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, one in five children, adolescents and youth is out of school. This is partially due to the lack of access to proper or adequate education and/or facilities. Online learning gives these children access to a variety of programmes and courses, customised learning and on-demand tutors at an affordable cost. All these students need is access to the internet.
In many developing countries, large swathes of the population are unbanked. In Southeast Asia, for example, only 27% of the population has a bank account. Digitised financial and banking services can potentially provide formal financial services and support for businesses and individuals in some of the world’s poorest and most remote regions. In India, where The World Bank reports there were only 21 ATMs per 100,000 adults in 2018, Hitachi is rolling out its Money Spot ATMs to make cash more accessible to rural populations and drive social progress. Future innovations, such as blockchain and finger vein authentication technology, may also further secure people’s private information.