More than infrastructure: WEF's Eric White talks internet for all

Eric White, project lead for the World Economic Forum's Internet for All project. Photo by: Marcelo Bartolomé / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

DAVOS, Switzerland — One of the outcomes of this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meetings in Davos, Switzerland, was that Mercedes Aráoz, prime minister of Peru, announced plans to launch an Internet for All program in 2018.

The Internet for All initiative is an effort by the World Economic Forum to bring together stakeholders from a range of sectors to address key barriers to internet inclusion. It launches platforms at the national, regional, and global level in order to extend access to the internet to the hardest to reach.

Devex spoke with the initiative’s lead, Eric White, ahead of the World Economic Forum meetings last week to talk about its model, accomplishments so far, and goals moving forward.  

Eric White opens a session on Achieving Internet for All at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York City. Video via World Economic Forum.

A new focus for 2018 would be the divide caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, White said, referring to the term World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab uses to describe this new era of technological transformation. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to fundamentally transform the global economy: new types of businesses, new winners, and maybe new losers,” he said. “It’s safe to say businesses that leverage the Fourth Industrial Revolution effectively are going to develop in places with robust internet ecosystems. When we think about the digital divide now and how it contributes to inequality, if the Fourth Industrial Revolution is built on top of the digital divide, it could exacerbate inequality.”

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.