Internet.org Issues Update on the State of Global Connectivity

By David Cohen Comment

StateOfConnectivityPercentOnlineA total of 78 percent of the population in the developed world has access to the Internet, compared with just 32 percent in emerging economies, according to the latest report (embedded below) from Internet.org.

Internet.org was created in August 2013 by Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, with the aim of connecting what at the time was nearly two-thirds of the world without Internet access.

Facebook said in a Newsroom post that 3 billion people will be online early this year, but this still means that only 40 percent of the world’s population has ever connected to the Internet.

Internet.org also pointed out that the growth rate of adoption of the Internet has slowed for four consecutive years, dropping from 14.7 percent in 2010 to 6.6 percent in 2014, adding that at the current pace, the milestone of 4 billion connected people would not be reached until 2019.

The report, State of Connectivity: A Report on Global Internet Access, focuses on what Internet.org considers the three barriers to Internet access: infrastructure, affordability and relevance. More details were offered in the Newsroom post:

  • Infrastructure: More than 90 percent of the world’s population lives within range of a mobile signal. This means that we will need to look at issues like affordability and awareness in order to connect the majority of people.
  • Affordability: Globally, monthly data plans with a cap of 250 megabytes are affordable to 50 percent of the population. Reducing this cap to 100 MB achieves 80 percent affordability, and 20 MB reaches 90 percent affordability. But in locations like Sub-Saharan Africa, where 69 percent of people live on less than $2 per day, only 53 percent of the population can afford the internet with a cap of 20 MB, an amount that provides just one to two hours of Web browsing per month.
  • Relevance: Many people are not online because they are either unaware of the Internet or because there is limited relevant content in their primary language. To provide relevant content to 80 percent of the world would require sufficient content in at least 92 languages.

StateOfConnectivityInfrastructureAffordabilityRelevance

Internet.org addressed the impact of the explosion of mobile growth in its report:

Before the widespread existence of relatively affordable mobile connected devices, people could only access the Internet by purchasing a desktop computer and maintaining a fixed landline connection, or via access to a computer through a friend, or a community-based connection point, such as a library, Internet café or similar public space.

For most of the history of the Internet, the rate of adoption for fixed-line connections remained steady and growing. And then, in the last decade, the number of people who could connect to the Internet via a mobile device quickly overtook the number of people who were connected via a fixed-line. There are a number of reasons for this: the advent of the smartphone, the emergence of mobile OS (operating systems), the development of mobile applications, the increase of network coverage, the falling cost of data and affordability of prepaid plans, changing social norms towards mobile device ownership, the falling cost of devices and overall increase in utility of the mobile Internet, generally. As a result of all of these reasons, Internet adoption has seen an incredible upward trend in recent years, driven by mobile.

The role of geography was also addressed:

Principally, your location is an important factor in whether you’re connected.

If you live in North America, for example, you’re 84.4 percent likely to have connected to the Internet, whereas if you live in South Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa, you’re only 13.7 percent and 16.9 percent likely to connect, respectively. The extremes of global connectivity rates range from 96.5 percent in Iceland to 0.9 percent in Eritrea.

The divide between the connected and non-connected world falls principally on the line between the developed and developing world. This divide has gotten smaller in recent years, but it remains significant.

While there has been some improvement in recent years, according to the International Telecommunication Union, mobile broadband in 2014 will reach 84 percent penetration in developed countries and only 21 percent in developing countries.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will discuss Internet.org and its efforts to connect the world at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, March 3 at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET, and the session will be streamed on the event’s site.

Readers: How important is it for everyone in the world to have access to the Internet?

State of Connectivity: 2014

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