A new World Bank report – South Asia's Digital Opportunity: Accelerating Growth, Transforming Lives – looks at the opportunities and challenges related to digitalising the economies, societies and governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The report finds that while some countries are benefiting from expanded access to services and markets, new jobs, innovation, reduced transaction costs and a better quality of life due to increased digitalization, its full game-changing potential remains untapped.
There are a number of challenges to digitalisation, the report says. It highlights the fact that broadband internet and smartphones remain unaffordable for the region’s poorest people; that there are low levels of digital literacy in the region, especially among women; that more needs to be done to enable digital transformation of government; and that there is a need for stronger, more accessible digital financial services.
It also points out that, across South Asia, some digital business ecosystems are more mature than others; that more can be done to implement cybersecurity protections; and that regional cooperation in a number of areas can help countries achieve development goals.
It makes a number of recommendations to address these issues – the most obvious among them being increasing the affordability of data and devices, ensuring reliable and affordable international connectivity, and building infrastructure to allow more people to connect.
It also suggests a ‘whole-of-government approach’ to the digitalisation of government; government policies to encourage innovation in the digital financial ecosystem; developing ‘digital business’-enabling frameworks; and making the digital skills agenda a key part of national strategies.
It also recommends infrastructure sharing across countries along with regional coordination in three other areas: cross-border connectivity and data infrastructure; an enabling environment for cross-border data flows; and integrated cross-border payment systems.
The report is free to download and can be found here.