Do we take the Internet for granted?

An interesting Boston Globe article recently described the literal ramping up of Internet use in Cuba. Crowds of people can be found collecting on La Rampa in Havana, a section of 23rd Street and one of the few places where Wi-Fi is accessible.  Cuba’s communist leaders are beginning to allow Internet access, albeit in fits and starts – only about five percent of Cubans can get online on a regular basis, according to the Globe story.
In expanding this topic to other nations that are developing their infrastructures, Pew Research Center offers a comprehensive survey of 32 nations’ Internet habits and perspectives. In general, Pew found that younger, better educated people with English language skills were the population segment most often accessing the Internet and viewing it favorably.
Some other points from the Pew survey:
•    Among the emerging nations, some of the highest Internet accessibility is in Chile, where 76% of the population has access; Russia, with 73%; and Venezuela, where 67% has access.

•    Some of the lowest rates of Internet access are in Pakistan (8%), Bangladesh (11%), India (20%), and Indonesia (24%). As Pew points out, 25% of the world’s population lives in these countries.

•    Age is a significant factor in people’s likelihood to use the Internet. Vietnam, for example, displays a wide gap, with 70% of 18- to 34-year-olds using Internet but only 21% of those 35 years and older.  Similarly, 72% of Malaysians age 18 to 34 have smart phones, compared to only 27% of Malaysians 35 and older.

•    Uganda had the lowest rates of computer ownership in the home – only 3%. Kenya was next lowest, with 8%, followed by Bangladesh (8%), Tanzania (9%), and Nigeria (10%).

•    Cell phone ownership is very high in emerging/developing nations – a median 84% own them across the 32 countries.  A median 62% of those are not smart phones.

•    Only 19% (median) of those surveyed have a landline in their homes. In Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda, only 1% of the population have landlines at home.

Clearly these last points are indicative of many nations opting to leapfrog landline infrastructure development, investing in mobile communications instead.

With the speed of technological advancements, that seems a good bet in many places where the citizens are very willing to use mobile devices and Wi-Fi – even on crowded public thoroughfares – to communicate.

 By Ellen Harris, International Product Director, Living Abroad