Last week it was reported that 3.2 billion people worldwide will be online and using the internet by the end of 2015, whilst a total of 7 billion mobile subscriptions will be in use across the globe.
The number of those from developing countries is impressive. Of 3.2 billion in total, 2 billion users will hail from the developing world – good news for those hoping to keep up with the race towards a fully developed, digitally empowered society.
The International Telecommunication Union released the figures on the 26th May charting the growth of online usage since the dawn of the new millennium in 2000.
However, not everyone is benefiting from the advantages of the internet, and there remains plenty of work to do. Countries such as Somalia and Nepal, classed by the United Nations as the ‘least developed countries’, have only 89 million users connected from an overall population of 940 million. The BBC has pointed out that Africa in particular lags behind, with just 17.4% mobile broadband penetration. Rural areas across the globe are less well served than built up agglomerations – and that includes parts of the US and Europe. According to digital communications company EE, 10million people in the UK alone remain unconnected.
To take a broader view, 80% of households in developed countries and 34% of those in developing countries will have internet access of some form by the end of the year. That’s no mean feat and represents a coup for internet evangelists, but what of those who remain unconnected?
What are they actually missing out on? Why is it that information and communication technologies have grown in such an unprecedented way? And how will their role continue to develop post-2015?
Many of the benefits of access to the internet seem obvious, but those of us already connected may take them for granted. On a personal level, the internet allows us to contact relatives or friends whether they are abroad or down the road; to book a driving test using a self-service application, to fundraise for charity, or even to search for a job – as and when we choose.
More generally, IT can boost business, improve the economy and smooth the cogs of government. The internet is an open platform for innovation and start-ups, and enables mass collaboration. In the UK, 15% of new firms created last year were digital. Provided net neutrality is preserved, the internet can also be an invaluable tool in providing freedom of information and access to information, from any location.
At Trustmarque, we use our fundraising committee CREATE (Corporate Responsibility Enablement Association of Trustmarque Employees) to raise funds for Computer Aid, a development charity which aims to alleviate poverty through the provision of ICT solutions. We’re excited to see how increasing internet use will continue to have a positive impact on the world we live in; opening up opportunities for innovation and productivity, and truly becoming the ‘fourth utility’.