The changing flavour of the internet: the next billion come online

By | November 18, 2010

Yesterday Vanderbeeken posted a link to an article on the changing culture of the internet as the next billion come online. It reminded me of some thoughts I had on this aspect a few years ago when I contemplated what would happen when the next billion came online. Here’s a snippet of my thoughts from December 2007:

They are already shaping a cyberspace to their needs, albeit in small and disconnected ways as yet. But enough dots exist to show some interesting directions that this could take.

Will there be a seperate but synchronous web that will arise that will be designed to be as easy to access as this one but within the limitations or conditions of wireless technology and the cellphone? So much of it is already beginning to happen – remittence sending, social networking, banking, blogging and picture uploading – that one can’t help but muse on this direction.

Will these two webs meet in the future? Or will we all meld into some new way that is accessible to us all regardless of the size of the screen or the box we use to enter cyberspace? However it happens, the changes have already begun, even if the next billion aren’t as yet ‘online’ on the same space we are and where we conceive cyberspace to be.

We just can’t ’see’ it yet because its in the process of happening right now but the global village information network has begun to change in a way that it hasn’t for millenia. Today, you don’t have to be literate, educated, formally employed or even have a home address anymore to access information via technology from the worldwideweb. Now that is the real beginning towards a bridge across the so called divide. And that is what will really influence the changes going forward as much as anything else such as geography, language, technology or culture. If information is power, then access will be worldchanging.

And I must confess that I enjoyed reading this snippet from the article itself (written November 2010):

The new users are younger, poorer and more numerous than ever before, BCG’s analysts said, and increasing numbers will need web access and won’t be able to afford broadband in their living room.

As Fabina da Silva pecked away on a keyboard to register her sons for school, she was in many ways typical of low-income Brazilian users. Those who don’t have web access at home often pay small fees to use ad hoc cybercafes known here as “LAN houses.” Many began as rooms full of connected computers, or local area networks, for multi-player gaming, but their customer base has since broadened.

In India, those following the trend say a huge portion of the new billion will enter the web via mobile devices.

“If you look at our broadband figures in India, it’s quite pathetic,” said Sunil Abraham, director of the Centre for Internet and Society, a think tank in Bangalore. “And less than 1 percent of the population has ever accessed the internet.”

Time, I think, to ponder the emerging future…

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