The Internet Is Still Not For Everyone
It radically changed the way we all interact and it has become the main medium of mass communication of our (if not all) time. Nevertheless it is used by just a few. How and why the Internet is still a technology available to less than 29% of the global population.
Since the early days of the Internet, the number of users who have access to the network has been growing with a highly exponential trend. Within a decade in fact, it has gone from 360 million users of year 2000 to the current 2 billion users: an increase of 444% worldwide.
However, although the data show a substantial increase in the ten years we considered (2000-2010), a strong gap is still obvious if we consider the ratio between the global population and those who actually have access to the network of all networks.
According to figures from the first half of 2010 and published on Internet World Stats the rate of penetration of the Internet on the entire global population does not exceed 29%.
Africa, with over one billion inhabitants, is the continent with the lowest penetration rate with a figure which is around 10% of the population. The bloody civil wars that have plagued many African countries for decades, the instability of governments and the consequent lack of investment in infrastructure planning, have been the main causes of this disparity.
In countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Burundi, the percentage of population connected is around 0.5%. Mozambique with its 22 million inhabitants barely reaches 2.8%.
In Asia the situation is no better. Out of a total of 3.8 billion people, slightly more than 21% of them have access to the Internet. The reasons are manifold and lie in part in the geography of the area, characterized by open rural areas with average population density, in which the diffusion of the Internet is almost absent, in part in the boost of some repressive governments which imposed, through censorship, a substantial degree of control and access blocking.
In China the number of users connected to the network is around 420 million on an estimated population of about 1.3 billion people (approximately 31%). For other countries in the Far East such as Bangladesh, the rate of Internet penetration is around 0.4% for 158 million people, while it reaches only 0.2% for Myanmar (one of the countries with the highest degrees of on-line censorship) that has 53 million inhabitants.
Far more encouraging are the data coming from Europe and North America where the percentages of users connected to the network, respectively, are around 58% and 77% of the population. In these areas, in macroscopic terms, the best economic conditions combined with higher levels of education and the widespread dissemination of the network are the key factors behind the reduced gap compared to other countries.
For Europe, in absolute terms, Germany is the country with the highest number of users connected to the Internet, over 65 million, or 79% of the population, while the regions at the bottom of the list are located in the Eastern Europe, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina (31 %) and Kosovo (20.8%) which are still paying the heavy legacy of being struck by the Balkans war, during the first half of 1990.
In Russia, just under 43% of the population uses the Internet while in the U.S. and Canada the figure is over 77%.
Lastly, in Latin America and the Caribbean the number of users of the network stops at 34% of the total population. Even in these areas, the lack of infrastructure in a spread throughout the territory and it is one of the main reasons for the limited diffusion.
Argentina is the country with the highest rate of users connected to the network with about 64%. Brazil and Mexico, respectively 201 million and 112 million inhabitants, reached only 38% and 27%. Last places for Bolivia (11%), Cuba (% 14) and Nicaragua (10%).