5 ways to protect critical digital connectivity during COVID-19

COVID-19 has dealt a shock to our world. Large swathes of the global population are living under some restrictions and enforced distancing. We are learning to live differently – to learn, socialize, shop, worship and collaborate differently. And we are doing all of this online.

The role of digital connectivity in our lives has grown over recent years, but never have we been so acutely aware of how critically we depend on it. From getting the latest information and health guidance, to supporting health services, adapting supply chains and sourcing equipment from across the globe – we depend on the ability to connect across distance.

However, we are also learning that we cannot take this connectivity for granted. Critical challenges require immediate action to ensure operational continuity and to ensure availability to the people who need it as the COVID19 wave continues across the globe.

The increased demands on our global networks have been dramatic. The use of both video-calling and streamed entertainment services have surged – Zoom has reported a 20-times growth in daily participants. Voice calls in some countries have tripled, and the use of communications apps have doubled.

The sudden shift to everyone living their lives online has led to unprecedented congestion and strain on critical ICT infrastructure. We also see challenges emerging with access and affordability across many countries.

Addressing global internet inequalities

Beyond the immediate COVID-19 response, there is a deeper and more lasting lesson. While it is true that many are only just realizing how much we depend on digital connectivity – it is only true for those who are connected to the internet. Currently, this stands at 53% of the world’s population. Many countries are now starting to face their COVID-19 wave without the luxury of the connected information systems that most if not all readers of this article take for granted.

Never before will the gap between those who are connected and those who are not be so dramatically – and tragically – felt. This tragedy may prove to play out hardest amongst the 47% of the world’s population that are not connected and do not have access to basic information and opportunities.

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