bridging_digital_divide

Bridging the digital divide : 3 billion people online by 2015

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A recent study conducted by eMarketer shows that by 2015 nearly 3 billion people will be able to access the internet at least once a month. The same study goes further, mentioning that in 2018 this figure will likely increase by another 50% with over 3.6 billion people connecting to the internet monthly. However, behind these encouraging numbers, the reality remains that the digital divide is still far from disappearing.

According to  Monica Peart who lead the study at eMarketer, those who will benefit the most from new internet access are located in emerging countries. There are two reasons for this. Peart asserts that this is firstly because”(…) Inexpensive mobile phones and mobile broadband connections are driving Internet access and usage in countries where fixed Internet has been out of reach for consumers, whether that’s due to lack of infrastructure or affordability(…)”.. Peart also mentions that this leap in “connectivity” is due to projects such as internet.org and Loon, conducted by Facebook and Google. This is slightly more surprising as both Internet giants’ projects are so far experimental and are not expected to have a significant impact on the number of connected people in the world for quite some time. So, as usual with figures, we have to be prudent.

 

Indeed, statistics often tend to mix up a part with the totality. For instance, if in a given country, the capital city is covered by a 3G network and the rest of the country is not, this country in its entirety might be considered as covered with internet connection. But if the capital city has 500 000 inhabitants and the whole country 10 million, that makes a big difference. Of course, we are not saying here that the data provided by eMarketer is wrong., on the contrary nobody will disagree with it! However, we feel we need to be prudent when we interpret the reasons why 3 billion people will be online by 2015 and also with the meaning of “being online”. That is, there is a difference between being online once a month by choice versus being online once a month because there is no data connection available.the rest of the time

 

India and Indonesia, two of the biggest countries in the world in terms of population, are making big infrastructure progresses to bring Internet to all citizens of their countries. But still, only a small number of privileged users can get an internet connection from their mobile phones. The fact remains that when the ultimate goal is global reach, some of the solutions will have to be found locally. The solutions will also have to be light, simple and affordable. Because, although Monica Peart’s study marks a certain degree of progress, 3 billion does not even make up half the world population. We live in a world of 7 billion people. For true global connectivity, we need to reach at least twice that number., and hopefully on a much more regular basis than once monthly


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