Most of us are familiar with the definition of extreme poverty as living on less than $1.25 a day. Other than the fact that this definition is not one that is properly nationalised/ localised and does not provide with a clear formula on how to do so, it is also not holistic and is not adjustable to the ever so changing and developing needs of our societies. It gives a static definition of poverty that is constricted to monetary value. Models that attempt to nationalize this concept of poverty do exist, yet, it remains a monetary definition, reflecting only one dimension of poverty – making it not so realistic. For example, economic growth has been strong in India in recent years, yet the prevalence of child malnutrition has remained at nearly 50%, which is among the highest rates worldwide. So what is multidimensional poverty?
Target 1.2 of Sustainable Development Goal 1, End Poverty In All Its Forms Everywhere, is
By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
A multidimensional poverty approach essentially captures all aspects of deprivation that people in poverty suffer from. This measure can include a variety of indicators that better reflect the complexities of poverty and thus better inform policies on how to tackle it. The Multidimensional Poverty Index takes into account dimensions of health, education and standard of living. This may include child mortality, years of schooling, access to water, electricity, etc.. which is much more reflective of reality.
This index is comprehensive and adaptable. Yet, one thing that we still miss out of the equation is the importance of internet access in tackling poverty in a sustainable manner. Standard of living must not only include access to water and electricity, but also access to the internet. For being integrated and functional in today’s world requires much more than having basic necessities.
Some might argue that in the regions of the world where basic necessities such as shelter or sanitary pads are not accessible, access to the internet is a luxury good that is dispensable. But what we must realise is that getting the homeless off the streets is not enough. By that, we are only a step closer towards eradicating poverty – by that, we did not completely eradicate poverty. Those people still need to reintegrate into society and into the economy. Not having access to the internet hinders their ability to do so.
Economic development is not about choosing between access to the internet and basic necessities: both come hand in hand to allow societies to flourish.The internet is a world of information and opportunity. Finding jobs and staying informed are only the tip of the iceberg. Access to internet unlocks the door to educational tools and healthcare for those individuals at an essentially lower cost.
The Internet has already changed many aspects of the lives of individuals in developed economies. It provided far-reaching economic and social benefits. Extending these opportunities is critical to accelerating economic and social growth in developing economies, while enabling the transition from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. Nonetheless, the internet is an essential tool for reintegration, and a tool that guarantees policies tackling poverty have a more sustainable impact.