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Internet Upgrade Breathes New Life Into Rural Areas, New UN Report Finds

Improved Internet access and connectivity can do
more than urban migration to provide better jobs and higher
standards of living for the roughly 3.4 billion people
living in rural areas, according to the latest
Social Report
, published on

Although the COVID-19 pandemic
threatens to stall progress made for rural populations, the
report argues that the crisis has also revealed how new
technologies can help end the urban-rural divide.

more inclusive future

UN Secretary-General António
said new technologieshave opened up fresh
opportunities for rural development, and a greener, more
inclusive and resilient future.

“The experience of
the pandemic has shown, for example, that where high-quality
Internet connectivity is coupled with flexible working
arrangements, many jobs that were traditionally considered
to be urban can be performed in rural areas too,” he

New technologies also offer the chance to
provide rural populations with access to digital finance,
precision tools for better crop yields, and remote jobs, all
of which help bridge the gap between cities and the

Half the world

The report, titled
Rural Development
was issued by the UN Department of
Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Researchers said
some 67 per cent of people in low-income countries, and 60
per cent of lower-income countries, are rural. Their overall
number, estimated at 3.4 billion, represents roughly half
the global population.

A staggering 80 per cent of
people living below the international poverty line are rural
based. Approximately one-fifth live in extreme poverty: a
rate that is four times higher than among urban

Discrimination and

Those in the countryside have less access
to essential services, such as education and health, while
rural women, older persons, and indigenous people continue
to face discrimination when it comes to land rights and

Rural areas are also home to most of the
planet’s “natural capital”, the report said, which
continues to be depleted and degraded. Practices such as
deforestation have greatly contributed to climate change and
the spread of zoonotic diseases, such as

Grow where you are

The UN report
presents new strategies to ensure rural people are not left
behind as the world scales-up action to boost the economy,
reduce inequalities and combat climate change.

promotes an approach known as “In Situ Urbanization”,
which calls for improving the lives of rural people where
they are, so that they can enjoy the same living standards
as city dwellers without incurring the negative impacts of
unsustainable urbanization.

Examples taken from
countries such as Sri Lanka, Japan and China show how
improved access to education and healthcare, increased
investment in rural infrastructure, and reduced income
disparity with urban areas, resulted in better living
conditions for rural populations.

The authors further
recommend that addressing inequalities must also accompany
action to reduce poverty levels, such as new land reform
policies, expanded social protection, and abolition of laws
that effectively discriminate against rural women,
indigenous people and other vulnerable

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