Facebook has been launching an initiative for several months to provide the Internet to people in poor, or developing countries. Even if this project is probably less philanthropic than it seems, it has the merit of showing that Internet access remains a privilege, and that there are many people excluded from the web. To show how the world is not uniformly connected, Facebook has just released a study on the connection rate around the world. And only 40% of the population would have access to an Internet connection! The study is based in particular on figures from the International Telecommunications Union. It looks at 3 key factors: the quality of the infrastructure, the cost of connections, and the ability to read the proposed content. The main conclusions of the survey are as follows:
37.9% of the population has access to the Internet
While in developed countries 77.8% of the population has been on the Internet at least once a year, in developing countries this only concerns 32% of the population. The disparities are therefore enormous depending on the country’s development. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 16.9% of the population has access to the Internet, while 84.4% of North Americans have access to the web. In Ethiopia, only 2% of the population has connected to the Internet once a year!
Not surprisingly, mobile becomes an important lever for web access. This is all the more true in developing countries.
In terms of infrastructure, while 2G is deployed almost everywhere, 3G remains a privilege. When 4G already affects more than 1/3 of Americans, 3G is barely available in South Asia. The ability to afford a connection is also very uneven. Here again, the developed countries are very favoured. 22% of the world’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day. In fact, it creates people who are excluded from the Internet. However, the Internet is a key issue for the economic development of these territories.
As far as access to content is concerned, the problem is more complex. In countries with low literacy rates, making the Internet accessible and understandable is very difficult. Another obstacle is the lack of content in the population’s mother tongue and the absence of relevant content. In developed countries, 92% of the population has relevant and accessible online content. A figure that falls to 44.6% in developing countries.
This study is interesting because it reminds us of our chance to have daily access to the web. Even if the fact that private actors are in charge of guaranteeing Internet access in emerging countries is problematic, it is obviously essential to eliminate digital inequalities.