If the current crisis has shown us anything, it's that the internet is absolutely an essential service.
Web connectivity enables people to stay up to date with the latest updates, and get more information on what they can do and how they should respond to limit the spread of COVID-19. Internet connectivity has also enabled schools to continue operating despite closures, enabled businesses to have their employees work from home, and provided a key link to entertainment services, significantly minimizing the impacts of the many lockdowns and changes in place.
Now consider the fact that more than 40% of people in the world cannot access the internet, and simply don't have the luxury of such systems. What will that mean for them as COVID-19 spreads into their regions?
Both Facebook and Google have been working to address this gap for some time, partly in order to glean the benefits of adding more users, but also to ensure that everyone has access to such benefits. And this week, Google has provided an update on one of its key initiatives on this front, with its data-friendly 'Android Go' OS now being used by over 100 million people worldwide.
As outlined in the video, marking this new user milestone, Google has launched an updated camera tool, called 'Camera Go', which will enable users to take better quality photos via Android Go devices.
As explained by Google:
"The new Camera Go app helps you take beautiful photos without worrying about speed or storage. It has features like Portrait Mode to give your photos a professional look by focusing on your subject. It’s built for people using smartphones for the first time, so it has a clean and simple interface. And, most importantly, Camera Go tracks how much photo and video storage space you have left, and then it helps you clear up space so you never miss a shot."
Similar to web connectivity more broadly, we often take for granted just how significant it is that we're able to take high-quality photos and videos at any time via our devices, which is something that's not as readily accessible in developing regions. The new Camera Go app aims to improve on this, which, as Google notes, "democratizes photography" for entry-level users.
In addition to this, Google says that it's also now operating more than 900,000 Android (Go edition) smartphones in Kenya - and importantly, 53% of those users are women. The gender gap is a significant concern in Sub-Saharan Africa, so being able to provide connectivity for women in these regions is key to maximizing access to information, and providing the full benefits of web connectivity.
As noted, we're witnessing, right now, in real-time, the critical societal value of the internet - and as such, it's important that we also consider how the rest of the world can connect, and ensure the flow of information reaches all communities.
Beyond that, there are also significant potential benefits in cross-border commerce, and maximizing business opportunity through global connectivity. That's obviously not the key consideration at this point in time, but as we come out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may well be entering a world with a changed mindset, a different perspective, a new scenario where entire systems as we've known them have been changed forever.
In that scenario, global commerce could well be key to re-establishing our economic foundations - and as such, providing the capacity to connect with more regions could present new opportunities that change the very way that we operate.
Given this, the ongoing efforts to 'connect the world' could become even more critical over the next decade.