The importance of global internet inclusion

Global inclusion in the Internet could bring seven percent of the world’s population – 500 million people – above absolute poverty levels, and add US$6.7 trillion to global economic output, according to a new study by Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business.

The study, for Facebook, encompassed 120 countries over a 10-year period and describes how the Internet could change as more people from developing markets get online. It examines how barriers to accessing the internet could be removed, and how the internet could change as more people from developing markets get online.

Despite the ongoing digital revolution, the number of new Internet subscribers, most of whom are in developing nations, has slowed in recent years, only growing in single digits since 2013. This leaves 4.3 billion people disconnected from a modern economy that would benefit by over US$6 trillion with their participation.

According to the report “Connecting the World”, bringing the whole world online would create huge benefits for developing countries and for businesses over the coming five years, including:

  • Social and economic improvement for over 4 billion people
  • An additional global economic output of US$6.7 trillion
  • A $400 billion growth opportunity for telecom operators
  • A $200 billion opportunity for content providers

Progress has been slow due to barriers including the cost of coverage, existing infrastructure speed and capacity, and the need to implement new infrastructure where it does not exist. The study finds that with retail Internet prices needing to fall nearly 70 percent to make the Internet affordable to 80 percent of the population, action is required across key areas of connectivity, content and the retail service to bring more people online:

  • Replacing current 2G networks with 3G or 4GLTE could bring a 60-70% reduction in the cost per MB to serve developing markets, making it profitable for operators to provide internet services, and opening up the internet to over 2bn people.
  • Providing content through a series of local high speed networks, would make it affordable for a further 300m people.
  • Offline distribution of content, including through national and regional data exchanges would improve access and affordability for a further 170m people
  • Governments offering content focused on education, social services or business opportunities could create an incentive for a further 200m to go online
  • Brand or subscriber subsidized access, for example learning centers, could bring another 500 million online globally

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