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Measuring the Waves and Raves for the Internet in the Near Term

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The clout and influence of the Internet have seeped into the inner fibers of modern society, and we are nearing the point where we will have a hard time pointing at an aspect of our lives that is still free from the influence of the Internet. The situation has reached a point where access to Internet services is now deemed a legal right as we are now seeing in several countries like Estonia, Spain and Finland.

The previous year saw some major strides in the Cyber web with the entry to the mainstream of the iPad and other touch screen gadgets. These major developments have turned Web surfing into an intuitive and fun experience and pushed the boundaries of what we can do and achieve through the Internet. And with the shift in the operating systems of mobile communication, particularly Google’s Android, we are now seeing a lot of possibilities we have never imagined before.

Several variables are working in harmony to push the numbers upwards in the next decade or so. Industry observers and stakeholders agree that the situation is just starting to pick up and with the entry of cheaper gadgets, better access to the Internet through mobile communication networks and broader reach of broadband services, we should expect a sustained increase in the number of people going online.

So, where do third world countries stand in as far as Internet penetration is concerned? What prospects do we see for low-income territories in the near term? Despite these exciting developments in the Internet, we are still looking at low penetration rates in most developing countries. Latest estimates show that there is only about 20% of the total population in this segment that has access to Internet service. Still, the big chunk of new entrants is expected to come from these emerging economies. With the uptick in high-bandwidth applications and content, Internet users in developing countries will slowly catch up with their counterparts in developed countries and this will serve as the main impetus for higher Internet penetration rate in these territories in the next couple of years.

In order for these countries to attain a higher usage of the Internet, several challenges will have to be addressed. The aggregate home Internet access is still at a low 13.5 percent and active users are usually those that are connected with the academe, business and those that are labeled as techies. The growth of online usage in developing countries will come about as teens and young adults start to increase their Web presence and more economic initiatives adopt transformational technologies that would integrate the use of the Internet.

Another major challenge is the cost of Internet access. While the overall price levels of Internet services are on the decline, high-speed Internet service in low-income territories remains relatively expensive. In fact, the cost of standard wired broadband service in developing countries is 578 percent higher than the cost of the same entry-level service in developed countries. Governments, the private sector, academe and policy think tanks should join hands and address these major challenges if they want to achieve a higher Internet penetration rate in their respective territories and narrow the gap between them and developed countries.

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