Internet access drives economic opportunity and enables the free exchange of data and information. It provides tools to address some of our biggest global challenges, including delivering education and healthcare, sourcing clean water, increasing energy efficiency, and making government more effective and responsive to the needs of its citizens. Connectivity is not just a by-product of progress – it is a crucial enabler.
But connectivity alone will not help people realize the full benefits of the internet. A truly inclusive internet must be widely available, affordable, and allow usage that promotes positive social and economic outcomes.
Before we can achieve an inclusive internet, we first need to identify and address the gaps in availability, affordability, relevance, and readiness. In an effort to do that, Facebook commissioned The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to create a comprehensive index of Internet Inclusion for 75 countries. The Index contains 46 indicators for each of the 75 countries organized across four categories: Availability, Affordability, Relevance and Readiness. We hope this new data will help move us closer to an inclusive internet by informing the design, implementation, and evaluation of internet policies across the public and private sectors.
This is a first step towards creating an open data commons that addresses connectivity and use of the internet.
We understand that data only becomes valuable when it is converted into actionable insights. That’s why Internet.org asked The EIU to produce a series of briefings that highlight key takeaways across countries and regions.
Key findings in the Inclusive Internet Index report include:
- The majority of the connected world remains under-connected.
On average, 94% of the population in the 75 countries included in the Index live within range of a mobile signal. However, only 43% have access to a 4G signal. As a result, predominantly in the developing world, people are using the internet less than they would if it were cheaper and faster. The infrastructure for access may exist, but connectivity must be improved in order for the internet to be globally inclusive.
- Relevant content in local language is key to an inclusive internet.
Local language content is necessary to create universal relevance, and therefore vital to inclusive connectivity. The good news is that local content is abundant in non-English speaking countries and lots of communities are working hard to make content available in local languages around the world. About 91% of countries in the Index have basic information in all official local languages, however, not all relevant content is available locally. Only 49% of countries in the Index have a government website that allows users to conduct transactional services online – perhaps one of the most valuable services the internet can provide.
- A key component to readiness is closing the gender gap.
The Inclusive Internet Index measured differences in connectivity between men and women as a component of readiness. While connectivity is improving around the world, the gender gap is widening: women make up a smaller proportion of internet users today than in 2013. The data shows that women in developing countries are not only less likely to have data-capable phones than men, but are also less likely to have even heard of the internet. By definition, if women are not online, the internet is not inclusive, and more needs to be done to decrease the gender gap in connectivity.
This first report will be the basis for more detailed and comprehensive analysis covering more countries moving forward. We invite everyone to conduct and share their own analyses and contribute data to this effort. We hope that as a broader community, we can create an accurate and comprehensive dataset on global internet access, use, and benefits in order to foster evidenced-based decision-making that will move us closer to a truly inclusive and connected world.
The full Inclusive Internet Index can be accessed at: theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com