Many international studies have shown how Broadband and the Internet improve economic growth and productivity. However, it needs to be clarified that just Broadband availability – people that can buy broadband access – does not necessarily improve economic growth and productivity; what really improves them is Broadband adoption – people that actually buy and use broadband access. Of course, in order to adopt Broadband, it first needs to be available but Broadband availability itself does not lead directly to an improvement of economic growth and productivity. Therefore, the main challenge for the Internet will be to get everyone connected and using it.
In fact, as Stuart N. Brotman explains in his article “The Global Broadband Adoption Gap Needs Greater Attention”, the problem is not broadband availability but broadband adoption: “there remains a substantial gap — in Sweden, the United States, and elsewhere — between availability and broadband adoption. Supply seems to be outstripping demand so far, which may be driven by powerful cultural forces.”
Why is there a gap between availability and broadband adoption?
As Brotman points out there are different reasons. In Sweden, for example, most of the people that do not use the internet indicate that they do not use it because they do not like to try new technologies. In other countries, such as the USA, “not having a computer is the main reason for U.S. non-internet users remaining offline.”
So, what can we do to decrease the gap and get more people to use the internet?
For Brotman, “the broadband adoption gap clearly continues to be both a marketplace and policy issue around the world. It underscores the need for more user-friendly devices and interfaces, along with more compelling content and apps. Hardware companies, venture firms and entrepreneurs have clear targets of opportunity in this realm. Government policymakers too often have viewed broadband adoption as an outcome of competition and pricing, developing new regulatory approaches designed to expand an often-ample supply pool. Like the private sector, they also would be well advised to bring the demand side of the broadband Internet equation into a much sharper focus.”
We agree with Brotman. In particular, we believe that the stakeholders that Brotman mentions should work together to improve three concrete issues:
- Government policymakers should improve the confidence and security of investors by encouraging new private infrastructure investments.
- Hardware companies and entrepreneurs should improve the affordability of digital services and products by using new technologies and adopting open standards.
- All, but specially public and private entities should improve digital skills in all societies and end with the digital divide – experience from developed economies show that even with broadband connectivity and devices available at affordable prices, around 20% of consumers do not access the Internet because they do not know how or do not see the need to do it.
From its side, Telefónica has invested around €9.5 billion in new broadband infrastructure in 2012 alone. 57% of these new investments were in Latin American countries. In more than 20 years, Telefónica has invested around €114 billion in this world region, becoming the biggest private investor regardless of any industry sector.
Last but not least, Telefónica has also developed and participated in various programs and initiatives to help reduce the connectivity gap in remote rural areas – programs such as “Intégrame” or “ConectaRSE” have been very successful in connecting hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas to the Internet.
For more information on what is Telefónica doing to get everyone connected and using the Internet visit our Digital Manifesto.