Universal internet access impossible until 2050: report

Experts believe that a lack of skills development and telecom investments are to blame

Universal access to the internet won’t be possible until 2050 because of a lack of skills development and telecom investments, according to experts.

Adrian Lovett, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation — an organization that was founded by the internet’s inventor Tim Berners-Lee — told The Guardian that a global digital divide currently exists because of dropping rates of people able to access the internet.

“If there is any kind of faltering in the rate of people coming online, which it appears that there is, then we’ll have a real challenge in getting 70 percent, 80 percent, or 90 percent connected,” he said in the January 10th, 2019 article.

“There should be no complacency that we will somehow magically progress towards everyone being online,” added Lovett.

“If you are not connected when the majority of your fellow citizens in the world are, you become marginalized in a way that could be more dire and more challenging than perhaps anything we’ve seen before.”

According to a study published by the web foundation in November 2018, growth in global internet access dropped from 19 percent in 2007 to fewer than six percent in 2018.

“We underestimated the slowdown and the growth rate is now really worrying,” Dhanaraj Thakur, research director of the foundation told The Guardian at the time.

“The problem with having some people online and others not is that you increase the existing inequalities. If you’re not part of it, you tend to lose out.”

In December 2018, the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union said more than half of the world’s population was now online, but those figures reflected online connectivity, most of which coming from mobile broadband.

The number also failed to reflect whether people knew how to get connected, whether they have the skills, or even the income to get themselves online.

“The only reason we have 50 percent online is because most of the developed world is so far ahead,” Sonia Jorge, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, said in the same January 10th article.

“It puts the developing world in a worse place, in a situation that is even more urgent.”

Jorge told The Guardian that the problem also stems from telecom operators, who have either stalled or declined investments.

In 2018, the Canadian federal government announced the Digital Literacy Exchange program, which is designed to “support basic computer skills training for Canadians who need it most.”

The program provides the knowledge needed to understand how to use computers and the internet safely and securely.

In November 2018, the government also launched its ‘Connecting Families’ initiative.

The program provides eligible Canadians with 10Mbps download speeds, a monthly allotment of 100GB of broadband internet, free installation and a modem rental for $9.99-per-month including taxes.

Rogers was among the first carriers to pledge its participation and in January 2019, the national carrier announced that it has 300 housing partners working alongside its ‘Connected for Success’ low-cost internet program.

Meanwhile, in October 2018, Telus launched an independent charitable organization that aims to help disadvantaged youth in Canada navigate social and economic challenges.

Image: Flickr

Source: The Guardian