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Which countries do not have the Internet?

Almost half of all people in the world cannot access the Web

28 July 2016
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Of over 7.3 billion people living on our planet, almost a half do not have access to the Web, experts of the International Telecommunication Union conclude.

"What do you do first when you wake up in the morning?" – "I start surfing the Internet on my mobile phone." This is the response of 39% Russian users. "Having breakfast" and "morning shower" ranked second and third. With social networks, mobile apps, online stores and entertainment services around us, we start our day from checking our inbox and Facebook messages and end it browsing evening news.

Modern digital technologies affected our privacy, inspired a unique lifestyle and became a reliable helper, and a true friend. In the recent five years alone, the number of Internet users in Russia grew almost twice. We feel that the Internet is everywhere. Yet, many people around the Earth still do not know how to download video, send a message in WhatsApp and haven't heard about the Pokemon GO reality.

More than a half of Earth's people (3.9 billion) do not have access to the Internet. They are geographically spread across the regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the CIS, says a report of the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized UN agency.

What are the countries where Internet services are unavailable to the bulk of population? What is interesting about the Asian Internet market? What is a living without smartphones and tablets like in Africa? Does North Korea have any connection with the external world? We are setting off to tell you about the countries where Internet access is still a faraway dream.

In Asian countries, almost a half of all people (52.8 percent) cannot access Facebook or Youtube. Most them live in India, China (660 million), and Indonesia (210 million). In Myanmar, Lao, Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan over 80 percent of people will never learn latest news and watch a soccer match streamed through the Web.

There is an interesting flip side to this statistics. On a global economic scale, Asia has a half of all Internet users in the world (1.6 billion). As for mobile market trends there, they are not much different from global ones, though there are some regional specifics.

India: the largest world market with only a third of the population connected

In the recent five years, the number of Internet users in India has increased five-fold – from 7.5% in 2010 to 35% in 2016. Compared to the rest of the world, this is a huge number of 400 million people which three times higher than Russia's population. India is the largest Internet market globally, outpaced only by the USA and China. The increasing number of active subscribers is due to the spread of social networks and online trade explains

Every day Indians spend an average of 5 hours using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, and more than 5 billion US dollars shopping in online stores.

The gradual market growth is due to similar global trends of decreasing prices of smartphones (popular Chinese gadgets cost 90-150 dollars) and mobile internet rates. According to IAMAI's report, by June 2016 India already had 371 million mobile internet users, almost every one of the total online users. Although the figures are solid, the access to the digital world is still lacked by 70 percent of the population.

India's ethnic features, a diversity of dialects and peoples also play a role. Only 5 percent of 7100 world languages are represented in the Internet. If a person from a remote Indian province ever browses Google, he is unlikely to move past the starting page.

Myanmar: from $250 to $2 for a SIM card in just five years

In 2015, Myanmar's telecom market saw a dramatic change. In 2010, just 0.2 percent of the population were connected to the Internet, and a SIM card could be bought for $250. In just 5 years, the Kingdom's share of people able to access the NET reached 12 percent, and the cost of SIM cards dropped to $2. This happened thanks to two major CSPs entering the market – the Norwegian Telenor and Ooredoo of Qatar, both committed to a 15-year contract on developing the telecom network in the country.

In just 10 months of their operation the total number of mobile internet users increased by 32 percent. In average, Myanmars spend on mobile internet less than $12 per month. Yet, things remain unchanged for fixed broadband access. Only few families can afford such a luxury. The average monthly rate starts from $50 excluding the cost of equipment and installation, while the minimum salary in the country is $3 per 8-hour working day.

In 58 African countries, only a third of people can check their inboxes. Ethiopians have the least chance to connect to the Web.

Ethiopia: costly, slow and dangerous

Ethiopia country has one of the lowest shares of Internet users – just 4 percent of the population. Government telecom monopoly, poor infrastructure and the policies banning telecom growth made communication services notoriously expensive. For instance, the monthly cost of mobile internet subscription starts at $10 and can reach $150 (1 to 30 Gbs per month).

Many use paid Wi-Fi in internet cafes which, in fact, remain the only available public spots for accessing the Web. An average Addis-Ababa user pays $0.25-0.35 per hour. For this money, he will need six minutes to access his e-mail or send a message. The connection speed in the country remain one of the lowest in the world.

The poor infrastructure poses another challenge. Networks are completely non-existent in rural areas, home to 85 percent of the population. Even with almost no link with the external world, Ethiopia, the second mostly populated Sub-Saharan country, is also known for its toughest Internet censorship among all African states. Those posting careless rhetoric online simply risk being jailed there.

North Korea is the only country where the Internet is officially banned

 North Korea: the national Kwangmyong network

The belief that North Korea is "the most closed nation in the world", with a total information blockade and the dictatorship of the leading party, is true, yet only partly so. In 2008, a cellular network appeared in the country. Koryolink, a CSP, started from Pyongyang, providing 3G coverage in the bigger part of the capital city. In 2015, the subscriber base included 3 million users, or 12 percent of the country's population.

DPRK citizens can use cell networks only inside the country, with no roaming or Internet, of course. The Internet is accessible only for a limited circle of people working at some government authorities and research institutions. The access to the network is strictly controlled by the government. Finding a state security official downloading the recent Game of Thrones series in off-duty hours is inconceivable.

The national network of Kwangmyon, an Intranet, is an alternative to the Web. For the moment, this is the only way for North Korea to learn about the digital world, albeit thoroughly regulated. News, e-books, a domestic search engine – everything in the Intranet is carefully checked by a dedicated Digital Information Center. However, they made a big progress for tourists allowing them to use phones and mobile internet inside the country. Before 2013, gadgets had to be deposited for storage at the airport.

Wi-Fi networks can be available only on the premises of foreign embassies and international organizations through a special government permit which they must acquire. It was possible to use Wi-Fi with no limits until 2014, but the law was tightened due to attempts of DPRK citizens to access free-of-charge, and, most importantly, unrestricted Internet. Connection attempts near consulates stopped soon after.

India, South-East Asia, East Africa and North Korea are just a few of the countries where most people do not have Internet access. What is the price of communication services in Afghanistan and Madagascar? Do you need to grab your tablet with you when travelling to Cambodia? How does the Internet market evolve in Middle Asia? We will tell you about it next time.

And for now, stay connected!

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