Before we continue with our ideas to bridge the digital divide, a couple quotes to start this week to help put the digital divide in perspective. The first is from an email sent by a friend (not clear where it originated, but the point made is striking):
If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:
There would be:
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be nonwhite
30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death
1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer
An article by Kumar Venkat in IEEE Spectrum (February 2002) adds additional perspective:
More than 96 percent of computers connected to the Internet are in the wealthiest nations, home to 15 percent of the world’s population. Nearly 60 percent of the US population has some access to the Internet, a distribution that is highly correlated to with household income.
In India, less than 0.5 percent of the population has Internet access – which translates to about 5 million with high enough income levels, education, and computer skills in a country of one billion people.
A Deutsche Bank research report (August 15, 2001) adds:
- The high-income countries (annual per capita income more than USD 4,650) make up a mere 15% of the world population but possess more than 60% of the global telephone lines and almost 70% of all the mobile telephones in the world.
- GreaterTokyo has more telephone connections than Africa.
- Low-income countries (annual per capita income below USD 470) account for 60% of the world population but only 5% of all internet users.
- 30% of all inhabitants of high-income countries use the internet, as opposed to a mere 1.5% in low-income countries.
- There are more internet users in New York City than on the entire African continent.
- Annual per capita investment on information infrastructure in 2000 aggregated USD 115 in the OECD countries but just USD 19 in the rest of the world.
The mix of “emerging markets, emerging technologies and emerging organisations” is what we in India should be thinking of – if we can make innovative solutions work in India, we definitely can extend them to the other markets which have similarities to India. The numbers are on our side: the emerging markets are home to more than 4 billion (two-third of the world’s population) and perhaps 15-20 small and medium enterprises. Bridging the digital divide is perhaps the biggest challenge and opportunity for our generation.