Providing universal Internet access to just three countries (India, China and Indonesia) would eliminate 45 percent of the “unconnected to Internet” population of the globe.
Doing so in just six countries (adding in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria) would solve the digital divide problem for 55 percent of the world’s people, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
About 20 countries account for 75 percent of those not using the Internet, according to McKinsey researchers.
The World Bank points out that many of these offline populations share common characteristics. They are predominantly rural, low-educated, with lower incomes, and a large number are women and girls, according to the World Bank.
Affordability is an issue. According to ITU’s latest price research, a monthly fixed broadband package cost 1.7percent of average income in developed countries, compared with 31 percent of average income in developing countries, and 64 percent of average income in Africa.
Mobile broadband costs one to two percent of monthly income in developed countries, compared with 11 percent to 25 percent of monthly average income in developing countries.
Lack of networks also is a big issue. Of the nearly four billion people not connected to the Internet, some 1.6 billion live in remote locations where networks do not exist. That is why Facebook and Google are developing unmanned aerial vehicle systems, Google is developing Project Loon and both are working on fixed access networks.
Among the 3.9 billion people who are not online, many people may be unaware of the Internet’s potential, or cannot use it because they lack the necessary skills or because there is little or no useful content in their native language, on top of facing other barriers to Internet access, including unreliable power supplies and/or sparse network coverage.