60 percent of the global population is not online and most of it is rural

McKinsey & Company recently released a report (Offline and falling behind: Barriers to Internet adoption) that provides a look at broadband adoption from a worldwide perspective. There are many reasons to read the report. For today I have pulled out what I think we can glean from the global view that might help us at home. Here are a few things I thought were interesting…

The report credits five trends for getting people online in the last 10 years…

the expansion of mobile-network coverage and increasing mobile-Internet adoption, urbanization, shrinking device and data-plan prices, a growing middle class, and the increasing utility of the Internet.

The rate of broadband adoption is slowing and we need to make changes to quicken the pace again…

Without a significant change in technology, in income growth or in the economics of access, or policies to spur Internet adoption, the rate of growth will continue to slow. The demographic profile and context of the offline population makes it unlikely that these individuals will come online solely as a result of the trends that have driven adoption over the past decade.

NOTE: Both local and national experts offered a similar observation in 2010 and the ITU offered some worldwide solutions at the same time.

They paint a picture of who isn’t online. The picture will look familiar to anyone watching the field – it’s rural, elderly, low-income… In short the picture includes four barriers: incentives, affordability, user capability and infrastructure. In areas where adoption is lowest, all four barriers are present – they are interrelated.

We estimate that approximately 64 percent of these offline individuals live in rural areas, whereas 24 percent of today’s Internet users are considered rural. As much as 50 percent of offline individuals have an income below the average of their respective country’s poverty line and median income.4 4.This estimate is based on the simplifying assumption that the highest earners are members of the online population. Furthermore, we estimate that 18 percent of non-Internet users are seniors (aged 55 or older), while about 7 percent of the online population are in that age bracket. Approximately 28 percent of the offline population is illiterate, while we estimate that close to 100 percent of the online population can read and write. Lastly, we estimate that 52 percent of the offline population is female, while women make up 42 percent of the online population.

Some efforts are currently being made to make a difference…

Governments are setting ambitious goals for mobile-Internet coverage and investing to extend fixed-broadband infrastructure and increase public Wi-Fi access. At the same time, network operators and device manufacturers are exploring ways to further reduce the cost of access and provide service to underserved populations. In addition, content and service providers are innovating on services that could improve the economic prospects and quality of life of Internet users.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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