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Internet

Comparing internet development around the globe

Aimee Reed is a freelance writer who specialises in writing financial and business pieces

The internet is a great leveler in terms of getting fast access to information, providing the ability to communicate instantaneously wherever people are, and creating opportunities to disseminate information in many different formats.

In many parts of the world, access to the internet is a given. It's an essential tool for work and socializing and it's hard to think how things were done without it, in the not-too-distant past. It's interesting to note that where once hotels, airports and other public places would charge for the privilege of having internet access, there aren't that many now that don't provide it as part of the overall service.

The developed world has put the infrastructure in place to ensure businesses and individuals have easy and reliable internet access, in particular through broadband Wi-Fi and with the development of faster download and upload speeds through fiber optic cables. There are many countries, however, where the internet can be patchy, where uploads and downloads can take more time than users would like, and where censorship affects users.

Internet user stats

In March 2015, research showed the number of internet users in a number of countries, and it's interesting to look at percentages in terms of the populations. China, as one might expect, has the largest number of internet users, at a little over 478 million. With a population of some 1.4 billion, this equates to around 34% who use the internet.

For the United States of America, over 201 million people use the internet out of a population of some 318 million, giving a 63% usage, whereas India, which has approaching 1.3 billion people, has close to 82 million users, but that only equates to around 6% of the population who have access.

Rolling out infrastructure, especially in remote areas of the world, can be very difficult, especially if the investment is not available at the right level. There are many people who will remember the days of dial-up internet access, the slow dialing, the strange electronic noise as the connection was tortuously made, and the incredibly slow downloads of web pages.

It's useful, then, to get a picture of internet speed throughout the world. Users will be familiar with internet providers boasting of high speeds to get them to sign up to a package, only to be extremely disappointed that those boasts didn't live up to expectations.

Internet speeds

Most users know to treat internet speeds with a degree of caution, if not downright skepticism. Yet some countries appear to have much higher speeds than others, and it's interesting to look at some comparisons.

Take South Korea as an example. It has an average download speed of 49.79 Mbps and an average upload speed of 43.01 Mbps. Compare that with the United Kingdom, with an average download speed of 23.32 Mbps and an average upload speed of 5.83 Mbps. That's quite a discrepancy.

Set that against the United States and the average download speed is 20.94 Mbps, lower than the UK, though upload speeds average higher than the UK at 6.48 Mbps. Italy does better with average downloads of 7.32 Mbps, but much poorer with its uploads, at 1.61 Mbps.

As countries work to get their internet infrastructure fit for purpose – it's the essential tool for business development worldwide – there are still difficulties that businesses and individuals have to deal with depending on where they live and work.

Censorship

This always a difficult one to call, but there is little doubt that many countries will censor aspects of the internet that they find challenge their ingrained orthodoxies. It is quite understandable that governments will seek to put controls on pornographic sites and it's not hard for them to be able to put forward justifications for this form of censorship.

What is more difficult to come to terms with in democratic societies that are generally open in terms of not controlling the majority of internet use, is the way that some regimes will filter, spy on users and ban what they consider to be inappropriate content.

Politics is a prime area for censorship, so if there is effectively a dictatorship in control (and plenty of dictatorships in the past and present have pretended they are democratic societies) then anyone who disagrees with the government and its policies is, in the government's terms, a legitimate target.

The same goes for social content. If a government perceives things to be offensive to the general public, such as gambling, sexuality and illegal drugs for example, it can clamp down on sites that allow people access to explore different aspects of life.

Allowing free access to communicate with people worldwide can also be perceived as a threat to authoritarian governments. Ideas spread and when the object is to control the population as far as possible – whether it is in terms of religious control or not permitting dissenting voices in a so-called democracy – it will be done.

Opening up new markets

Pioneering business people have helped to open up new markets that have brought communication opportunities to millions who never had them before. Afghan Wireless, as a prime example, was launched in 2002 by entrepreneur Ehsan Bayat. It provides cellular services that link far-flung families in Afghanistan, and Ehsan Bayat's Bloomberg page gives more information on his business skills and insights into the company.

IT jobs

IT has been the future for job growth for many years now, and colleges and universities offer a wide range of courses to help students prepare for the complexities of the industry. From an understanding of simple programming, learning languages for software development or getting to grips with the hardware and infrastructure elements of the sector, there are a myriad of opportunities to get involved and make a good living.

The internet is constantly developing and hardware and software are also continually evolving. With people working – and playing – online more and more, there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up online businesses, sell worldwide, and develop highly successful operations.

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