Of the world’s 7 billion people, only 2.7 billion have access to internet while vast majority of 4.3 billion that remain unconnected live in developing countries. While connectivity and the adoption of technology is linked to economic status, there is also increasing evidence to suggest a more complex relationship between connectivity and social impact. With greater ability to communicate across borders and more and often unfettered exposure to ideas, products and opportunities, the internet can certainly be a catalyst for change.

Using Ericsson’s Networked Society City Index and data, we analyze connectivity against social impact in 15 cities across the world – Cairo, Delhi, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Karachi, Lagos, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo. Connectivity as an input in this instance refers to: number of mobile phone subscriptions, number of smartphones per capita, percentage of population with a computer at home, number of tablets per capita, internet usage as a % of population, social networking penetration, open data and web presence, and electronic and mobile phone payments. Meanwhile, social impact as an output refers to: health (infant mortality), average life expectancy, education (levels of upper secondary and tertiary education attainment), percentage of literate people, social Inclusion, murders per 100000 inhabitants, unemployment as a % of labor force, gender equality in education and gender equality in city government.

As the graphs below show, there is an undeniable correlation between connectivity and social impact. However, that does not stop some of the ‘developing’ cities, where connectivity is still relatively low, from seeing high social impact. Jakarta, Mexico City and Shanghai are prime examples providing better health and gender equality than their highly connected counterparts, while social inclusion also high.

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