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Over half of the global urban population are unconnected

A new survey by Maravedis Rethink on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), shows that over half of the global urban population are unconnected. This includes many people in some of the world’s wealthiest cities.

The report gives some indirect answers why there is such a big digital skills gap. If people still can’t get a decent connection and technology in their homes, then the business can’t really expect them to be tech savvy.

According to the results, 57% of the global urban population is not connected. One third of those living in some of the world’s wealthiest cities also fall into that category. On a region level, things are a bit more close to the expectations.

Unconnected people everywhere

82% of people living in the urban regions in the Middle East and Africa lack connections. The percentages for Asia Pacific and Latin America are 68% and 55% respectively.

The most connected region is Europe. Only about 17% of people in European urban regions are unconnected. In North America the same is valid for 23% of people.

London is the most connected city in the world. Only 8% of the people living there don’t have an internet connection. The least connected city in the world is Lagos in Nigeria. There 88.3% of people are not online.

“There is a clear divide between the digital haves and the digital have-nots,” said Shrikant Shenwai, WBA CEO, to ComputerWorld. “And while this divide generally mirrors socioeconomic trends around the world, there are surprisingly high levels of urban unconnected citizens in major cities”.

Problems and difficult solutions

WBA also notes that the lack of urban connectivity results in several types of technological and even political problems. For people with low income, having an internet connection is far from a priority. For the people in not so wealthy regions internet subscriptions are expensive even for people with medium income. High costs push people out of the web even though they would love to use it.

This drives a further wedge in the digital skills gap. In order to get more people involved in tech and improve their digital skills, then the first thing that should be solved is making the tech widely and easily available. If people can’t even use it to begin with, we can’t really expect them to have good skills with it.

“Affordable and sustainable broadband connectivity within cities is an absolute must,” said Reza Jafari. Jafari is chairman and CEO of the Connected City Advisory Board (CCAB). The CCAB is also backing the event. “Not only is it helping citizens today, but connectivity will be the key to transforming and improving the development of cities around the world in years to come”, Jafari added.

The only way to solve this problem is with the industry getting together and working towards that. There are already numerous projects to get affordable or even free internet services. Among them are Facebook’s, Google’s Project Loon and so on. Sadly, most of these are still too small to have a big enough impact. It will take some time before the only people who don’t have an internet connection are the ones who don’t want one.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / Andrew Hart