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Norwegian City Is Fighting Poverty by Giving Free Internet to Kids

In recognition of the internet as a vital tool for education, Bergen, Norway — the Scandinavian country’s second-largest city — has moved to provide online access to all children.

The city has made universal internet access a key component of its action plan against poverty, which aims to make life more equitable for its low-income residents. Local leaders say the city has a responsibility to bring the internet to children because so much of their schoolwork depends on it.

"It is very positive that the municipality of Bergen has such a strong emphasis on facilitating social inclusion,” local public interest director Helge Eide told Norway’s NRK.

Take Action: Call on the UN Statistical Commission to Commit to #AllChildrenCount

According to the United Nations, Norway ranks number one on the global Human Development Index, an analytical summary that takes into account each country’s average life expectancy, level of education, and standard of living.

About 97% of the country has online access, which reflects the high standard of living many — but not all — Norwegians experience. The Bergen city council’s decision to provide “internet money” to children whose families receive government assistance will help uplift the remaining 3%.  

For children around the world, the internet serves as crucial tool for overcoming inequalities and accessing opportunities, according to UNICEF’s 2017 State of the World's Children report, which focused on the digital experience for children. Yet significant gaps in online access, especially based on income-level and gender, can worsen existing inequalities, the report explains.

Despite amazing gains in worldwide internet access over the past decade, about 350 million children still can’t go online.  

Read More: 70% of Kids in This Country Have Been Harassed Online as Digital Bullying Grows

The staggering disparities in internet access reflect economic inequalities around the world. In particular, the world’s poorest countries also lag behind the wealthiest countries in providing internet access to children.

In Europe, for example, 96% of adolescents and young adults have internet access, but in Africa, it’s 40%. And worldwide, 12% more men use the internet than women.

Global Citizen campaigns on enabling all children, regardless of income level, gender, or location, to experience the same educational opportunities. You can take action on this issue here.

Read More: The End of Net Neutrality Could Hurt the Poor Most of All

For low-income children with internet access in the US, new digital developments may stop them from sharing the same online experience as wealthier peers.

The Federal Communication Commission’s decision last year to repeal Net Neutrality — a provision that prevented internet service providers from restricting the flow of data or giving preferential treatment to certain platforms or websites — could force families to pay more money for the same level of internet access, experts say.

"Who's being affected by this? It's poor people, people of color," Detroit activist Nyasia Valdez told Al Jazeera. "It would be so devastating and further exacerbate the inequality that's already there."