The World Bank on Wednesday called on Israel to allow Palestinians to upgrade their mobile network, saying the potential of the digital economy in the occupied Palestinian territories was not fully realized.
Due to the Israeli restrictions on imports of information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, spectrum allocation (currently limited to 2G in Gaza and 3G in the West Bank), and network connectivity in the Palestinian territories is excessively low, showed the bank’s latest report.
This has been considered a major impediment to the establishment of digital infrastructure, connectivity, and high-speed broadband access.
According to the global ICT Development Index, the West Bank and Gaza are placed below the developing country average in broadband penetration rate.
The report calls on Israeli authorities to allocate the spectrum needed for Palestinian 4G and 5G deployments before 5G deployments are completed in Israel.
Palestinian businesses move toward online channels
“Investing in the Palestinian digital economy is more important than ever,” said Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza.
Not only does it enhance the region’s competitiveness and access to the global markets, providing jobs and a source of fiscal revenue, but also it becomes vital in times of crisis, he underlined.
“We have witnessed the significant move of many Palestinian businesses toward online channels during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
The Palestinian economy has not been creating enough jobs, with over a quarter of the population unemployed in the second quarter of 2021, the bank said in a report.
Women are particularly disadvantaged with only 17% participation in the labor market versus 68% for men, it added.
It argued that accelerating the Palestinian digital transformation and establishing a well-connected Palestinian economy will help create new jobs, bridge the gender divide, and back up economic growth.