The Internet Society released its 2015 Global Internet Report, the annual report on the global state of the Internet. Focused on the impact of the mobile Internet, the report shows that mobile has fundamentally transformed Internet access and use, and holds the key to fulfilling the promise of Internet connectivity for the next billion people.
While the digital divide around the world is closing with the help of mobile, challenges still exist. One key finding of the report is that given the availability of the mobile Internet, affordability and lack of relevant content are now the main barriers to Internet access. Even taking into account regional variations, in most, if not all, countries, the availability of mobile Internet service far outpaces adoption rates, meaning that a significant number of people have access to service, but do not subscribe.
There are numerous countries for which the cost of mobile Internet service is more than 5% or even 10% of average per capita income. Further, while a significant segment of the population can access and afford the mobile Internet, they do not yet have enough interest to begin using it. This can be attributed to language barriers and limited locally-relevant content, including a lack of access to major app stores in some countries, which limits the usefulness of a smart device.
Apps are increasingly used as the primary means of interacting with the Internet, and the report highlights the many benefits of apps as well as the challenges. The vast majority of apps are native to a particular proprietary mobile platform, such as Android or Apple. This raises the costs for developers to make apps for all platforms and for consumers to switch between platforms, limiting choice and competition between platforms.
The mobile Internet has allowed more people to access the Internet to do more things in more places. The report celebrates the role of the mobile Internet in shifting the digital divide debate from whether access is available, to whether the access is affordable and relevant.
- 94% of the global population is covered by a mobile network, 48% are covered by mobile broadband, and 28% have subscribed to mobile Internet services.
- The gap between availability and adoption of mobile Internet is due to affordability and lack of relevant content. Policymakers should focus on filling this gap by removing taxes on equipment, devices, and services, and eliminating regulatory barriers for operators. Local hosting of content can also help lower costs by avoiding the use of relatively expensive international capacity to access content.
- More than 80% of online time on mobile is spent on apps, as opposed to a browser. Users spend more than 50% of overall online time using mobile apps.
- An increasing reliance on mobile apps, combined with those apps being native to a particular proprietary mobile platform, raises the cost of creating apps for each platform, the cost for users switching between platforms, and thereby limits platform competition.
- The web app environment enables developers to create websites with advanced features that can be installed on a mobile device with an icon similar to existing apps.
Source: _Internet Society