Today on Recode, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) talk about the bipartisan Digital Global Access Policy Act, known as the Digital GAP Act, and the impact that internet access can have on communities around the world. Just days ago, the House passed this important bipartisan effort led by the pair.
The lack of internet access in developing countries makes it difficult for aid and other resources to make the needed impact to improve lives. This was devastatingly clear with the Ebola outbreak. Royce and McMorris Rodgers note that “one of the major roadblocks to the Liberian Ebola response efforts was the lack of reliable internet access across the country, as community health centers struggled to coordinate efforts. The very act of physically passing Ebola patient information out of the infected red zone risked exposing people in the green zone.”
The lessons learned during the 2014 outbreak should be a warning for how we approach Zika and the ways we track the virus and disseminate accurate travel advisories to people, especially expecting mothers. “Making sure any vulnerable populations are aware of the risk of exposure could be as easy as a click of a mouse or a swipe of a mobile application,” they write.
But, to Royce and McMorris Rodgers, it’s about more than the virus. It’s about the billions of people across the globe who are falling behind in healthcare, education, and the economy simply because they do not have access to the internet.
To address this, the Digital GAP Act, promotes a “build-once” policy in the developing world, meaning as humanitarian aid projects build roads and bridges, private entities are able to simultaneously lay cable and other infrastructure. Laying the groundwork — pun intended — during these construction projects sets the communities up for success and reduces long-term costs. As Royce and McMorris Rodgers explain, this process is about “maximizing the impact and reach of existing U.S. taxpayer dollar assistance, providing more strategic support to disadvantaged communities and making it easier for businesses to invest. It’s a win, win, win.”
Simply put, “The internet has fundamentally transformed the way we do business, educate our youth, and save lives. By promoting access to the internet around the world and modernizing our approach to humanitarian and international development programs, the Digital GAP Act stretches American aid further and has the potential for a long lasting impact by narrowing the digital divide that holds so many people back.”
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We encourage you to catch Chairman Royce and Chair McMorris Rodgers’ full op-ed by CLICKING HERE.