Closing the Digital Divide
Closing the digital divide: connecting everyone, everywhere unlocks societal progress, catalyzes opportunities and opens new markets.
How the Arm ecosystem is working to connect everyone, everywhere.
Connectivity Is Opportunity
Connecting Everyone, Everywhere
For many of us, a life without internet is barely imaginable. We are connected around the clock and use gigabytes of data every day. From our position of privilege, it can be hard to conceive that around half the world’s population still does not have access to the internet1.
This ‘digital divide’ excludes around 3.7 billion people from the digital economy, widening existing social and economic divides. The correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion is well established, and it's something that affects both developing and developed economies.
No connectivity means no access to new and better jobs, to extended learning
opportunities, to better products and services and no access to the increasing amount of information that can be found only online.
On the other side of the coin, it means employers are missing out on a huge pool of potential talent – a vast group of bright minds who could be making a positive contribution to the workplace.
Connecting everyone, everywhere is essential for an equitable world.
1. UNESCO: The State of Broadband 2020
Unlocking Commercial Opportunity
Closing the digital divide is not just about philanthropy. Philanthropy relies on a continued ability to give goods and services for free. Inclusive, equitable, profit-making business models are truly sustainable, bringing opportunity both locally and globally – catalyzing new opportunities and opening new markets.
Businesses typically focus on mature markets paying premium prices, but emerging economies offer wide addressable markets and sound investment opportunities. In 2020, mobile technologies and services generated more than $130 billion of added economic value (8% of Gross Domestic Product) in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, according to the GSMA. This is set to reach $155 billion by 20252.
By thinking beyond typical markets, we can help individuals achieve their potential, transform communities, and drive social and economic growth.
2 GSMA: The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2021
Laying the Foundations
How Arm and its ecosystem are providing
the infrastructure to support connectivity.
Internet connectivity is more prevalent than you might imagine. In fact, according to the GSMA, just six per cent of the global population lives in areas without connectivity.
However, the quality and cost of that connectivity has a hand in dictating the level of opportunity it enables, and the caliber of the user experience.
Smartphones using 3G see download speeds of around 2 megabits per second (Mbps), 4G gives 3-5 Mbps, while 5G can hit as much as 20,480 Mbps. Clearly, the user experience can vary immensely across these generations.
Open standards and open-source products can help bring greater connectivity to emerging markets and dense urban areas, reducing costs and promoting scalability while increasing flexibility and interoperability.
Open RAN (radio area network) technology, for example, can facilitate the deployment of 2-, 3- and 4G, as well as the evolution to 5G, by leveraging widely available commercial off-the-shelf server technology and reducing vendor lock-in. This helps reduce total cost of ownership and enables broader connectivity in remote areas.
Projects such as The Linux Foundation’s Magma, an open-source platform for building carrier-grade networks, enable operators to build and augment efficient mobile networks at scale. Arm is a founding member of Magma.
Connecting the Disconnected
Lightweight, low-cost and robust, Jangala’s Big Box is a ruggedized, briefcase-sized device that transforms any form of internet connectivity into fast and reliable Wi-Fi in less than a minute. Easy to deploy with little or no technical expertise, it lowers the barriers to deploying internet access across a range of challenging aid scenarios.
By maximizing digital signal, blocking adverts, and capping the quality of video streaming, the device – powered by Arm Cortex technology – can provide connectivity for up to 100 users. With the addition of low-cost, simple access points, Big Box can serve 2,500 simultaneous users, providing access to vital services, or simply comforting communication with loved ones.
“In the 21st century, connectivity should be regarded as a basic human right. Rescue workers say that the first thing refugees ask for when they make land is not food or water, it’s a hotspot, to let their loved ones know that they’re alive.”
Anna Hickman, Head of Partnerships, Jangala
Arm has worked with Jangala since 2019.
Connecting Every School to the Internet
Giga, an initiative of UNICEF and ITU, aims to connect every school on Earth to the internet, and every young person to information, opportunity, and choice.
The first step is to map connectivity gaps to identify demand for infrastructure and funds, and measure progress. Giga then works with governments, advising them on affordable country-specific models for finance and delivery, subsidizing market creation costs, and incentivizing private sector investment.
In partnership with industry, and based on mapping results, Giga also advises on technical solutions to provide schools with connectivity, and countries with secure, reliable infrastructure to support future digital development needs.
Arm has helped Giga put 1 million schools on the map, gaining invaluable insight into emerging markets along the way.
More than 360 million young people are excluded from the digital age by poverty, geography, or other circumstances beyond their control."
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
Since 2015, Arm has partnered with UNICEF to accelerate the development of new technologies and help the most vulnerable children across the world.
The combination of Arm’s expertise, funding, and partner network, alongside UNICEF’s convening power and global presence, has enabled us to deliver real social value for children on a broad scale.
Getting the Right Tools into the Right Hands
How Arm and its ecosystem are improving lives with affordable and accessible devices.
Mobile connectivity continues to accelerate digital inclusion: 3.8 billion people worldwide now use mobile internet. But 3.4 billion more live in areas with network coverage – yet still have no access to digital services. In fact, the usage gap is now six times larger than the coverage gap.
While it's not the only obstacle, affordability of handsets and data remains a key barrier to mobile internet adoption3.
Arm powers the world’s smartphones, from high-performance to ultra-low-cost. This transformative technology has helped put the smartphone at the center of people’s digital lives, making them more productive, more creative and more connected.
Creating an end-to-end, ultra-low-cost mobile solution that will help bring millions more people online will take cooperation across our industry, from silicon vendors and foundries to OEMs and distributors – and even governments and NGOs.
Solving the affordability conundrum is not just philanthropy. Converting just 20 percent of the global feature phone market to ultra-low-cost smartphones by 2026 could help connect an additional 350 million people, creating value for both the digital society and the ecosystem that supplies it.
3 GSMA: The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2021
Sharing Information – Even Off-Grid
Amplio’s Talking Book is a rugged audio device designed for information sharing in remote, off-grid, low-literacy environments.
Typically used by governments and development organizations, it gives access to information on topics such as sustainable agriculture, maternal health, child protection, financial literacy, hygiene and sanitation, and malaria prevention. Users with low- or zero-literacy skills can play messages on demand and record their feedback. A built-in speaker allows families and groups to listen and learn together.
Because Amplio's technology collects usage data and user feedback, organizations can monitor Talking Books in the field, identify issues and trends, and continually update and improve their content for greater success.
Powered by Arm Cortex technology, the unit uses mains power or batteries to deliver local-language content targeting knowledge, attitudes and practices. No internet connectivity is required.
Amplio's inclusive digital technology enables local and international organizations to bridge the digital divide in the world's hardest-to-reach communities.
Arm has worked with Amplio since 2011.
Granting Access to Vital Services
Around 1 billion1 people in the world have no formal proof of identity, denying them access to essential services such as education, finance, and healthcare.
Typically, women and children are most affected: 99 per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, in low-resource settings, yet most could have been prevented with a consistent program of care. But with no access to centralized systems, consistent care can be a rare luxury.
Simprints uses an inclusive method of identification to safely create a unique ID for each individual, allowing health workers in the field to identify patients accurately, and quickly create or access their record of care. The biometric data is securely collected using the health worker’s Android smartphone, while timestamps and GPS coordinates record the time and location of treatment. Where internet connectivity is poor or non-existent, offline mode can be used and new patient data is uploaded when connectivity is restored.
Vitally, Simprints’ solution focuses on the ethical and inclusive use of digital ID, ensuring it works for diverse populations with solid privacy protocols and patient protection at its core. The system is compatible with the digital health tools used by healthcare workers, governments, and global development practitioners around the world, and can be rapidly deployed and scaled on low-cost Android devices.
A strategic partnership between Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Simprints, and Arm aims to address the bottlenecks in equitable vaccine distribution by creating reliable digital healthcare records – even in the absence of formal identification.
Arm has supported Simprints since its inception in 2012.
Enabling Real-Time Healthcare in Low-Resource Settings
Using paper-based medical records is slow, inefficient – and, since healthcare workers are required to carry them to their destination – heavy. While workers in city facilities can swap paper ledgers for lightweight tablets, those on the road face a challenging working environment that creates numerous obstacles to adoption.
The ability to charge a device isn’t a given. Many remote locations have an unreliable electrical supply. High ambient temperatures significantly reduce battery life and can cause devices to slow down to prevent overheating. Dust can block charge ports or cause devices to overheat. Few commercially available devices can withstand the conditions – and may be too costly if they can.
Arm worked with Be He@lthy, Be Mobile – a joint initiative between the World Health Organisation and the International Telecommunication Union – to collaborate on the design and spec of a tablet that would do just that.
The result is an affordable Arm-based tablet prototype with a battery life of three to four days, a front and back camera with flash for simple diagnostics and rugged casing to withstand heat, water and dust – providing a permanent, centralized record of care, even in remote, low-resource settings.
The prototype tablet was designed primarily for the healthcare sector but has potential for deployment in other sectors such as agriculture, education, field conservation and disaster relief.
Bringing brilliant people together to spark the world's potential
Arm technology is at the heart of a computing and data revolution that is transforming the way people live and businesses operate.
Our energy-efficient processor designs and software platforms have enabled advanced computing in billions of chips and our technologies securely power products from the sensor to the smartphone and the supercomputer.
Together with 1,000+ technology partners we are at the forefront of designing, securing and managing all areas of AI-enhanced connected compute from the chip to the cloud.