Without a reliable internet connection, where would we have been over the past year?
In many ways, the pandemic highlighted the leap we have made shifting the way we work, learn and communicate. But from a technology point of view, I'm not so sure how much changed. Not when the digital divide, made even more apparent over the past year, is still a significant problem in our communities.
While many think the digital divide is focused on rural areas, there's more to the story. An Amdocs survey of U.S. consumers about their current connectivity showed that despite two-thirds of respondents living in areas considered to have reliable internet, 62% said they experienced recent issues. Further, more than one-third, 36%, had a situation where they had lost connection or experienced connectivity degradation while conducting a critical task like working from home.
A bigger problem than we realize
So, what happens when experiences in and outside the home become even more complex and a spotty internet connection doesn't always offer the ability for consumers and businesses to stay online?
For instance, remote work is an ongoing discussion point. Hybrid offices and even work-from-anywhere approaches from tech titans like Facebook and Spotify are making waves. As this becomes more acceptable, the "talent everywhere" discussion becomes critical. We're no longer tied to talent in our general area, and that means a Silicon Valley company doesn't need to pay Silicon Valley salaries to find exceptional talent.
Essentially, the world becomes flatter. However, this is another area where those with unreliable or nonexistent connectivity are disadvantaged, and talent everywhere can only happen when it's not theoretical. The same can be said when it comes to the education of the next generation.
Service providers and device manufacturers need to join forces
In the Amdocs survey, when asked who they want to tackle the digital divide, 17% of consumers said big businesses and the tech industry. At the top of their list of issues to be resolved were faster speeds, 58%, and improved reliability, 44%. The responsibility to close the divide is not on the shoulders of any single party, but the responsibility of all players -- including service providers and IoT developers -- in the ecosystem.
As satellite broadband providers and 5G networks expand further, thereby reducing the divide, it'll be important for IoT manufacturers' devices to provide real, tangible use cases, which bring new value to consumers everywhere, bringing embedded connectivity into health, education, farming, sports, municipal systems and more. For instance, this might include giving students laptops equipped with an eSIM to ensure connectivity from anywhere.
The increased use of private enterprise networks provided by businesses or local governments and enabled by service providers can also ensure services on connected devices are given a tailored, reliable network. This is also a viable option to help close the gap.
There is a lot to be done before we can effectively close the digital divide. But now is the right moment to start thinking beyond just businesses and seek how everyone can collaborate in a broader mission. As experiences become more complicated, we can't risk anyone else being left behind.
About the author
Gil Rosen is chief marketing officer and division president at Amdocs:next, having rejoined Amdocs at the end of 2018. In this role, he is responsible for IoT, data, AI, machine learning, cybersecurity, financial services and payments. Previous to this, Rosen served as the chief marketing and innovation officer at Bezeq, Israel's largest telecommunication provider. There he accelerated Bezeq's digitization and market leadership in the IoT domain with the launch of Bezeq's Smart Strategy, including smart city, smart business and smart home offerings. Prior to Bezeq, Rosen was vice president of new media at Deutsche Telekom, responsible for the development of the cloud set top box concept, the Tolino Tab, and was the founder and business leader of Deutsche Telekom's first fully digitized cloud-based communication provider, IMMMR. In his first tenure at Amdocs, Rosen was vice president of innovation and digital services and the founder and head of the AT&T Foundry in Israel. In this role, he was responsible for the setup of a new innovation center and the creation of a hybrid R&D and partnership model that led to the launch of successful innovation projects for AT&T.