The digital divide isn’t just an issue of rich vs poor – 1.75 billion people in the world’s eight richest countries by GDP remain unconnected, with 34% residing in major urban centers.
That’s according to a new study released by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and IHS Markit on Tuesday to mark the WBA’s second annual World Wi-Fi Day. The study explores the levels of urban and rural connectivity across eight major countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK and the USA. It also uncovers the challenges faced and the initiatives being implemented by five of the world’s major cities: Delhi, London, Moscow, New York and Sao Paulo.
Key findings from the report:
- Delhi and Sao Paulo have the largest number of unconnected citizens. 29% (5.3 million) of the population of Delhi are unconnected, 36% in Sao Paolo, (4.34 million) are unconnected
- London is the most connected city, with just 7% of citizens unconnected (625,336)
- 19% of people in New York City are unconnected (1.6 million), while 17% of people in Moscow are unconnected (2.1 million)
|Country||Region||Total unconnected individuals (million)||Total unconnected individuals as % of total population|
|United States||North America||78.401||24.18|
Internet adoption has been faster in cities than in rural areas; however, urban areas still face significant challenges to expanding internet users. These challenges include limited spending power, lack of availability of technology, lack of awareness of benefits gained from using the internet, and IT literacy levels.
In both developing and mature markets, availability of affordable internet services is still an obstacle to connectivity. Even among those countries with higher average salaries, the existence of economic and social divides significantly shapes the issue of the digital divide:
- In New York, one of the greatest barriers to connectivity is the quality and affordability of internet connections
- For Londoners, IT skills and an understanding of the benefits provided by being connected are, along with spending power, key challenges to internet adoption
- Moscow has faced specific challenges related to infrastructure, developing an integrated approach to promoting internet adoption, and ensuring a high standard and quality of internet services.
“Connectivity is now an essential commodity, much in the same category as power and water. Yet many people in some of the world’s major cities are still without an internet connection,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA.
Shenwai said the issue of the urban unconnected is of “critical importance” to economies and societies around the world. “It’s vital that internet access becomes recognized as a human right, and that all stakeholders involved in the provision of broadband work together to make this happen.”
The full white paper, “The Urban Unconnected”, is available to download here.