The cult with the greatest number of followings — that of the internet — now has 3.2 billion adherents, says a report by ITU — the UN agency that oversees communications and IT development across the globe.
Equating up to just about 43.4% of the global population, there is certainly room for improvement here. On a better footing is cellular connectivity, with more than 95% of the world’s population is now within reach of mobile.
The annual report by the ITU also gave us some pretty interesting insights into the global internet usage. For example, while South Korea has maintained its ace position as the most connected country in the world, followed by several European countries. The sole representative from Asia in the top 10 list is — surprisingly — Hong Kong, while Japan has managed to snag the 11th spot.
Also, India — despite all the noise — has slipped six places to land at the 131st position, again stressing the massive amount of effort required for anything remotely approaching ‘Digital India’. Mainland China is in a similar, if somewhat improved, predicament with its 82nd position in the list of the best connected nations, which is actually quite surprising given the way tech giants — Apple, Uber, to name a couple — have been eyeing it as the next ‘IT’ destination.
Moving to the type of internet connection, mobile broadband subscriptions (47.2%) seem to be the favorite — no surprises there — overtaking both fixed-broadband subscriptions (10.8%) — which can be a painstaking affair, at least in India — and households with Internet access (46.4%).
There have been substantial improvements in the affordability of broadband services since 2012, but services remain too expensive for many people in developing countries.
The report also underlined the fact that despite all the progress — and there has been remarkable progress from the past few years — the digital divide still continues to haunt large swathes of the world and unsuprisingly, seems to be directly connected to the overall conditions of the region.
There continue to be substantial differences in fixed and mobile telephone and broadband penetration rates between countries in different development groupings (Chart 1.2). Developing countries still lag behind developed countries in access to ICTs, and least developed countries (LDCs) are particularly disadvantaged. Access to ICTs and the Internet is also much lower in some regions than others, with penetration rates in Africa lagging behind those elsewhere.
Malawi, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Chad, for example, are ranked as the five least-connected countries globally in descending order. Each of these countries has in recent times, seen their share of internal turmoil and/or severe economic conditions.
Was there ever anything like the internet? Definitely not. Will there ever be? I seriously doubt it. However, sometimes, lost in the world of online entertainment and whatnot, we forget the greater calling of the internet which has been connecting people across the world — even those of the very poor — and granting them access to resources they would other wise never have.
With goals of such significance as these, it becomes even more important to ensure that the whole world is able to connect to the internet, and thus to each other, as soon as possible. For a connection with each other will breed empathy and empathy may just someday, lead to an understanding — born regardless of cast, religion, color or country — and would not a more understanding world be a better place to live in?