More than 625,000 Londoners – around 7% of the city’s population – lack access to the internet, with a dearth of IT skills and understanding of the benefits of being online, coupled with reduced spending power, key challenges to internet adoption in the city.
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These are just a few of the key findings of a wide-ranging survey on the state of connectivity around the world, conducted by IHS Markit on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) to mark World Wi-Fi Day on 20 June 2017.
The report found that 1.75 billion citizens in the world’s largest economies – Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US – remained offline, with 34% of those people residing in major urban centres.
The report also discovered that while the connectivity gap between urban and rural populations is fading in mature markets, the digital divide is still very much a reality.
It surveyed five of the most important cities in these markets and found that, of those urban areas, Delhi in India and São Paulo in Brazil had the highest number of unconnected citizens, with 29% and 36% of their populations unconnected respectively. Around 19% of New Yorkers, and 17% of Muscovites were also getting by without internet access.
“Connectivity is now an essential commodity, much in the same category as power and water. Yet many people in some of the world’s major cities are still without an internet connection,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA.
“The issue of the urban unconnected is of critical importance the economies and societies around the world. We call on governments worldwide to re-double their focus on connecting the urban unconnected.
“It’s vital that internet access becomes recognised as a human right, and that all stakeholders involved in the provision of broadband work together to make this happen,” he added.
The challenges noted in London were essentially universal ones, even in countries with above average salaries, and in all markets surveyed, said the WBA.
The biggest challenge seemed to be the availability of affordable internet services, indicating the existence of economic and social divides has a significant effect on the digital divide.
Bridging these gaps in availability are important, added the WBA, because digital inclusion has been proven to be a real engine for wider economic growth.
This is the WBA’s second annual World Wi-Fi Day, an initiative set up to encourage city and national governments, communication providers and tech suppliers to do more to deliver universal broadband connectivity.