infoTECH Feature

August 11, 2008

Internet Usage Gaps in Developing Countries: Challenges and Solutions

By TMCnet Special Guest
Martin Guion, TMCnet Guest Contributor
This article outlines current and future technologies for consumers around the world who want or need access to the Internet. Currently, the Internet is used by more than one billion people around the world, but there are still approximately five billion consumers that don’t have access to it.
 
There are several new innovations that can lead the way for these consumers to get Internet access. There are a few challenges to overcome including new devices, connections and production and industrial software. The first challenge for the new consumers is to own or get access to a computer or device to connect to the Internet. Another challenge is acquiring some type of Internet Service Provider (ISP) service or cellular phone provider WiMAX and 3G connectivity. The final issue or challenge for new consumer to overcome that is purchasing or downloading software.
 
China has about 253 million Internet users and America has about 220 million. China only has 19 percent market penetration versus 73 percent market share in America.
 
Devices
 
First, new Internet users have to purchase or lease the device. The One Laptop Per Child “OLPC” program has so far provided more than 600,000 low cost computers to children throughout the world. The OLPC laptop is low cost and easy to use, but some country officials see the device as a toy and are also skeptical of the Linux operation system.
 
(Linux operation systems make up less than 1 percent of the operating system market, Windows operating systems lead the market with close to 90 percent and Apple (News - Alert) has approximately 10 percent market share.)
 
The OLPC program directors recently changed the name of the program to 2B1 and have introduced a Windows XP version. Another low-cost initiative, the ClassMate PC from Intel (News - Alert) is being offered to developing countries as well. Portugal recently purchased 500,000 Classmate PCs.
 
"This new collaboration with Intel underscores Portugal's commitment to advance quickly toward a knowledge-based economy," said Portugal's Prime Minister, Jose Socrates. "By equipping our schools with state-of-the-art computing technology and Internet connectivity, we hope to hasten the transition to economic
models that benefit our citizens." The ClassMate PC reviews are favorable and the platform technology is established, so there should be more countries purchasing these units in the near future.
 
The next initiative is not a traditional computer, but a computer nonetheless.
The new 3G iPhone (News - Alert) is essentially a portable, touch-screen computer, with easy navigation  between software programs, connection to the Internet, e-mail and instant
messaging (IM).
 
A final option for securing devices in developing countries is using surplus 386/486 and early Pentium computer from America and Western Europe. These devices could use an older Windows operating system or even Linux as the operating system. If Linux is used it would be the cheapest option, but it is also by far the most technically challenging.
 
Connectivity
 
The next challenge for new consumers of traditional computers is some type of Internet Service Provider (ISP). Connection types include dialup, cable modems, and DSL over phone lines, but these technologies use buried cable. In America, buried cable via broadband is the best option because of the miles and miles of fiber already installed. America has 66,000 broadband users with 21.7 percent of the market. China has more than 48,000 broadband users, but that is only a 3.7 percent market share for the population of China.
 
Buried cable could be the best option for China depending on current architecture, but most developing countries don’t have cable or land line telephone service. A new technology, WiMAX , could be the best broadband option for developing countries.
 
“WiMAX is a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL,” according to WiMAX Forum. “WiMAX provides fixed, nomadic, portable, and mobile wireless broadband connectivity without a needing a line-of-sight with a base station.”
 
The beauty of the WiMAX technology is communication signals can be
sent and received up to 40 miles away from the tower via a PC Card or WiMAX base
station. This is great news and a technology breakthrough for developing countries with little communication infrastructure. As for the iPhone switching to the 3G technology backbone, its service is “part of over 750 GSM mobile phone operators across 218 countries and territories of the world representing more than 3 billion GSM and 3GSM (News - Alert) connections - over 86 percent of the world's mobile phone connections,” according to GSM World.
 
Software
 
The next issue for new consumers to overcome is purchasing or acquiring some type of
production software or industrial software. As for office automation software, Microsoft Office should work on newer computers and older version of Microsoft Office should work on older or less powerful machines. There are other office automation option as well, there is an open source office suite “Open Office” developed by Sun Microsystems (News - Alert). For industrial software there is a vast amount of free and open source software to manage the information technology of businesses. For example, Untangle.com provides a plethora of open source business products.
 
Conclusion
 
With about five billion people in the world still not having Internet access, there is great potential in this market. Technological innovations have been can help overcome the challenges of obtaining devices, connectivity and software. As computers become cheaper and Internet technology increases, more users will begin to “surf” the “information highway” of the Internet.
 

Mark your calendars for Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year.  ITEXPO will take place in Los Angeles, California, September 16-18, 2008, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Register now!

 
Martin Guion is a guest contributor to TMCnet.

TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.
FOLLOW US

Subscribe to InfoTECH Spotlight eNews

InfoTECH Spotlight eNews delivers the latest news impacting technology in the IT industry each week. Sign up to receive FREE breaking news today!
FREE eNewsletter

infoTECH Whitepapers