About UMC

Depriving vast swaths of humanity from the possibilities offered by the Internet is costly, deepens inequalities and undermines development. Over the past 30 years, the number of Internet users surged from a few million to 5.3 billion. Yet the potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains untapped: one-third of humanity remains offline, and many users only enjoy basic connectivity. Multiple digital divides persist across and within countries, between men and women, between youth and older persons, between cities and rural areas, between those who enjoy a fibre connection and those who struggle on a spotty 3G connection. UMC is the new imperative.

To maximize its impact on society and the economy, digital connectivity must be universal and meaningful (for readability, from here on we omit the word “digital” when referring to connectivity). Figure 1 below illustrates the two dimensions: use – ranging from none to universal; and quality – ranging from no connectivity to meaningful connectivity.

“Universal connectivity” means connectivity for all. “Meaningful connectivity” is a level of connectivity that allows users to have a safe, satisfying, enriching and productive online experience at an affordable cost. The two dimensions are complementary: neither universal connectivity with poor quality nor meaningful connectivity for the few will yield significant, society-wide benefits. At the same time, the two dimensions obviously reinforce each other: more use can lead to more meaningful connectivity, and vice versa.

What is Universal & Meaningful Connectivity and why does it matter?