Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Different are our Digital Worlds?

Internet access in developed and developing countries still varies dramatically, according to Facebook Newsroom's report on 'The State of  Global Connectivity'.

The 2014 report suggests that the percentage of the global population who use the Internet at least once a year was 37.9%.

Other statistics include:

"The unconnected are disproportionately located in developing countries — 78% of the population in the developed world is online compared to just 32% in emerging economies.

Moreover, adoption of the internet is slowing — The rate of growth declined for the fourth year in a row to just 6.6% in 2014 (down from 14.7% in 2010). At present rates of decelerating growth, it won’t reach 4 billion people until 2019.

In order for the entire world to connect to the internet, we will have to address the three barriers to access: Infrastructure, Affordability and Relevance.

Infrastructure – More than 90% 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 250MB are affordable to 50% of the population. Reducing this cap to 100MB achieves 80% affordability and 20MB reaches 90% affordability. But in locations like Sub-Saharan Africa where 69% of people live on less than $2 per day, only 53% of the population can afford the internet with a cap of 20MB, an amount that provides just 1-2 hours of web browsing a 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% of the world would require sufficient content in at least 92 languages."

Source: Facebook Newsroom "The State of Global Connectivity"

A recent blog post by Upasna Kakroo raises two interesting questions.

First, how and why are social media messages any different from notes delivered by carrier pigeons?

Second, she cites research suggesting that developed countries tend to think of constant connectivity as eroding the boundaries between work and non-work life, which is implicitly viewed negatively in countries such as the UK, Germany and France.  By contrast, those surveyed in developing markets seem less concerned about work-life balance, at least when it comes to connectivity.

My take on this is that those living in developing markets are perhaps more actively seeking opportunities, many of which come through digital media.  And, that the wonders of digital media in our homes are still something of a marvel.  I know this personally as we finally got significantly faster broadband speeds at home a few weeks ago and it is like having a new well in a parched village.  As they say, there are two parts to happiness.  One is having what you want and the other is knowing when you have it.

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