The Challenges of Digital Inclusion in the Virtual World – Part 5

In previous reports on the Metaverse, we showed what it is, how it will be built, who is leading the initiative, and what business models and applications can be used in these virtual worlds. In its fifth report, Mobile Time addresses one of the issues the metaverse will inherit from the physical world: digital inclusion.

If the metaverse promises to break down the barriers between digital and physical, transforming economies and business models, how can we include people who don’t have access to the internet today? What are the problems and how can these gaps be closed?

According to Qualcomm CMO Don McGuire, the main issue is connectivity. This is happening not only in Brazil or emerging countries, but also in mature countries, such as rural areas in the United States, the executive said: “Connectivity and access have to be the equalizer,” he added.

According to figures released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), 3 billion people do not have access to the internet, a problem exposed by the crisis triggered by the new coronavirus pandemic. The WEF also noted that those excluded were disconnected because of the high fees charged rather than the lack of coverage.

That’s because, while 88 percent of the world’s population lives in areas covered by LTE, the 650 million people living in low-income countries pay 18 times more for broadband internet than in developed countries. Furthermore, even in countries with mature economies, finding a price that fits in the pockets of broadband consumers “is a challenge,” the World Economic Forum noted.

Speaking on the importance of connectivity for the future, Millicom CEO Maurício Ramos said that during MWC 2022, it is necessary to work on digital infrastructure that is as important as the physical infrastructure of bridges and roads. To that end, executives at the Latin American operator have defended the concept of a “digital superhighway,” which puts the customer and the network at the center.

“We need to stop using words like telecom, mobile, cable, 4G, 5G or 6G. I believe in our markets we need to say ‘digital infrastructure’, especially for digitization in developing countries. Because, like Like coffee, bananas, and fabric, people need roads, ports, and airports. In a physical economy, structures are physical. Now, a digital economy of bits and bytes requires digital infrastructure. But only when we call it infrastructure, We will understand that digital affects all sectors of the economy. And the impact extends beyond our industries. So much so that a 10 percent increase in broadband connectivity penetration would increase the GDP of these markets by 2 percent,” he said in February.

According to Guilherme Moika, a software engineering consultant at CESAR, bridging the gap between digital and non-digital also involves offering services in cheaper forms of interaction. He gave an example of using augmented reality instead of virtual reality on a phone. On the other hand, experts say “spending” on infrastructure will be inevitable.

Changes in way of thinking

What is needed other than structure to bring connectivity to those who are not integrated into the digital economy and thus into the metaverse? Having “connectivity creates value for society,” explained Sponsorb partner and ESPM professor Fernando Moulin, but all players in the production chain must take concerted action to address the digital divide. Nonetheless, experts explain that the public, private and civil society sectors must first “connect with the most vulnerable schools and communities”.

On the other hand, Mullin says advances in technology will force governments to rethink the role of the state, society and the work chain: “What will the society of the future look like? People will be more willing to stay away from real-world pain and dopamine in the brain. Happy in a virtual world? In the past, governments were formed through city-states because community production was better than unilateral production. We went global in the 20th century. Now, when we turn to artificial intelligence, things will be different. States will not be able to Not reinventing yourself in this new world,” adds Moulin.

Target

Meta’s president of global affairs and former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote on his Medium page that Meta will be guided by priorities such as privacy, security and integrity. However, on the issue of the digital divide, the main pillars of the company are:

– Economic Opportunity: How to give people more choices and maintain a vibrant digital economy;

– Equity and Inclusion: How to design these technologies in an inclusive and accessible way.

On both fronts, Meta began investing in a range of companies, including four Brazilian companies, to create a responsible Metaverse. Highlights of digital inclusion jobs and opportunities are:

  • The work of ITS Rio and the C-Minds Eon Resilience Lab in Mexico, who want to find opportunities in the metaverse;
  • IP.Rec, which will analyze Brazilian public policy applicable to technologies such as augmented and virtual reality;
  • Chuo University in Japan, which aims to improve foreign language teaching through the Metaverse;
  • There’s also Future of Jobs North America, which wants to bring augmented and virtual reality experiences to small and mid-sized companies in the U.S. to improve their businesses and workers who are underserved in the marketplace.

Working with these teams, while building the technology, tried to ensure that the enthusiasm for the metaverse was matched by a “rigorous” focus and collaborative building, Clegg said.

other efforts

In addition to Meta, in another working example of reducing problems, Luiz Tonisi, CEO of Qualcomm in Latin America, explained that the company is in discussions with partners to develop entry-level 5G devices to accelerate the adoption of the fifth generation of locals. Additionally, the company has launched a $100 million fund to support startups in app development.

In turn, the World Economic Forum created the Edison Alliance, which brings together companies such as Verizon, Ericsson, Mastercard, American Tower, as well as the United Nations and Indian health group Apollo Hospitals to bring education, health and financial inclusion to the world’s $1 billion people provide services.

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