In this day and age of high-speed Internet, smartphones, and plethora of other devices in an exponentially growing Internet of things, it is hard to imagine what life would be like with a lack of online connectivity, never mind the fact that over half the world’s population is still left unconnected. In a detailed report conducted by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development released by the United Nations, 57% of the world’s population (more than 4 billion people) are still without a regular Internet connection with a growth rate that has been regularly dropping over the last few years.
Among the reasons cited for this shortfall are a lack of development and infrastructure in more rural areas, decreasing smartphone adoption, and a gender gap in developing countries where fewer woman (about 25%) have access. Additionally, a large language barrier exists wherein only 5% of the world’s 7,100 languages are supported online creating further roadblocks to non-represented countries and cultures.
This is an issue that affects many first world countries as well. A July 2015 study by the Pew Research Center reports that 15% (or 47 million) Americans are currently without Internet. 19% of these Americans cite the expense of Internet plans as one of the leading causes for this deficit. The Pew Research Center also reveals that “one-in-five blacks and 18% of Hispanics do not use the internet, compared with 14% of whites and only 5% of English-speaking Asian-Americans – the racial or ethnic group least likely to be offline.”
The UN Broadband Commission concludes its report with the summation that “[e]very year, [it] publishes its annual ‘State of Broadband’ report to take the pulse of the global broadband industry and to explore progress in connecting everyone on the planet via broadband. This year’s report finds mixed messages about the growth of ICTs and the global state of broadband. Although strong growth rates continue for mobile broadband and Facebook usage, and mobile cellular subscriptions exceeded 7 billion for the first time during 2015, growth in global mobile cellular subscriptions and growth in Internet usage have slowed sharply. We have reached a transition point in the growth of the Internet.” The United Nations has pledged that by 2020, it wants to increase worldwide connectivity to at least 60% – a goal that seems far-fetched in comparison to the growth data to date.
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