By the end of this year almost 3 billion people will be using the internet, up from 2.7 billion at the end of 2013. This is according to International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) newly published ‘Measuring the Information Society’ report, tracking global Information Technology (IT) developments.
The core feature of the report is the ICT Development Index, which ranks countries’ performance with regard to ICT infrastructure, use and skills. The index reveals that of all 166 countries included, almost all of them had developed from last year. However, more work still needs to be done to connect developing countries.
Perhaps most significantly, the report noted that,
“While the growth in mobile-cellular subscriptions is slowing as the market reaches saturation levels, mobile broadband remains the fastest growing market segment, with continuous double-digit growth rates in 2014 and an estimated global penetration rate of 32 per cent – four times the penetration rate recorded just five years earlier.
International bandwidth has also grown steeply, at 45 per cent annually between 2001 and 2013, and the developing countries’ share of total international bandwidth increased from around 9 per cent in 2004 to almost 30 per cent in 2013.”
However, despite this progress there are still over 4 billion people who are not online, and 90% of them live in developing countries. A key barrier is the high proportion of people living in rural areas, where IT infrastructure doesn’t yet reach. This is problematic as it’s in these areas where IT can perhaps make its significant impact.
This provides a stark contrast to populations who live in urban areas who tend to enjoy affordable high-speed internet, mobile network coverage and better quality internet services.
The overall message of the report is that there is a continuous increase of internet usage worldwide, with all countries increasing their online content. Much of this content is driven by social media, thanks largely to the growth of mobile internet services. However, we will not reach the summum bonum of a global knowledge-based internet society unless IT services are better regulated to drive competition for lower costs in developing countries.