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Will AI ease or exacerbate global instability?

CC: Science Business

Original article by David Pringle on Science Business

Experts debate what Europe should do to close the growing global data divide.


Counting the cost of connectivity

For the global south, one of the biggest obstacles could be the cost of digital infrastructure. There is a “data divide based simply on the lack of affordable connectivity,” explained Cathrin Stöver, chief communications officer of GÉANT, which connects European scientists to each other and to their counterparts elsewhere in the world. “And I have to stress that this is not a lack of cables anymore. It used to be, but it is no longer,” she added.

Although Africa is one of the best-connected continents in the world (in terms of the cables that serve it), bandwidth between African cities can cost €60 per megabit per month, compared with just two Euro cents between European cities, according to GÉANT. “In parts of Africa, connectivity is not just a little bit more expensive. It is 3,000 times more expensive,” noted Stöver. “And that, from our perspective, is one of the major drivers of the continuing digital divide.”

During the pandemic, the lack of affordable connectivity meant that education came to a complete halt in much of the global south, Stöver noted. “This is absolutely terrible for the development of these economies. And I think that has shaken a lot of stakeholders.” To help GÉANT bring down the cost of connectivity, Stöver called on the European Commission to establish more programmes that include a regulatory dialogue, alongside investments in infrastructure.  At the same time, more activities need to be “driven by the global south” to  find solutions that work and not simply “copy and paste activities from Europe or the US because they work in our economies,” she added.


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