A study by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and IHS Markit revealed 1.75 billion citizens in the world’s eight richest countries by GDP remain unconnected, statistics WBA said highlights the digital divide remains a global problem.
The report – released in conjunction with World Wi-Fi Day today (20 June) – examined connectivity in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US.
It found Delhi in India and Sao Paulo in Brazil have the largest number of unconnected citizens: 29% (5.331 million) of the population of Delhi, and 36% in Sao Paolo (4.349 million).
In Brazil, the mobile handset is the main device used for connectivity, the report said. According to a national survey, 89 per cent of individuals using internet are accessing it through a mobile device.
“With mobile technology bringing a wider coverage compared to fixed broadband technology and with handsets having numerous price points catering for a wider audience, it is expected that handsets will remain the main means for individuals to connect to the internet for the coming years,” the report said.
Meanwhile in India, the process of digitisation is built on various factors including universal access to mobile connectivity and e-governance.
London was found to have the lowest proportion of unconnected citizens at 7 per cent of the city’s population. In Moscow, the figure stands at 17 per cent, marginally ahead of New York City on 19 per cent.
In New York, quality and affordability of internet connections is a major challenge, while in London IT skills and an understanding of the benefits provided by being connected and spending power are some concerns.
Moscow’s challenges centre on infrastructure, developing an integrated approach to promoting internet adoption, and ensuring a high standard and quality of internet services, the report noted.
Overall, 34 per cent of unconnected citizens reside in major urban centres, the study said, adding availability of affordable access is a major obstacle in both developing and mature markets.
The report stressed the importance of connectivity. It said unconnected individuals miss out on savings and personal development, adding digital inclusion is an engine for economic growth as it helps to attract investment, start new companies and stimulate innovation.
“Connectivity is now an essential commodity, much in the same category as power and water…It’s vital that internet access becomes recognised as a human right ,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA.
He said Wi-Fi is playing an instrumental role in helping cities bring wider and more affordable connectivity, and called on governments to redouble their focus on the issue.