Here’s another easy one. North America has, by percentage, the highest Internet penetration in the world. That makes sense, for all of the reasons I would just be didactic to repeat. This is important to the future of publishing. At nearly 70% (slightly lower than the Pew estimate), Internet access is so widespread that there’s no real point in even worrying about the other 30%. Based on history and on trends, that 30% will soon join the majority; if they don’t, there isn’t much in the overall Internet utilization picture that will be significantly impacted. This may not be a valid point of comparison, but as you’ll see elsewhere on this site, most people don’t read newspapers. The charts at http://www.oracledbaexpert.com/info/internetUsage.html suggest that the total number of Internet users in the U.S. is 184 million, while InternetWorldStats.com rates its nearly 70% penetration at 233,188,086 users (see below). Close enough! Now a more intriguing chart, with more telling numbers. We just saw that Internet penetration was largest, by percentage in North America. But as you’ll see below, North America has only the third largest number of Internet users by world region. Stop and ponder the implication of that fact. North America is probably nearing saturation. Europe may be also. The rest of the world is where the growth in Internet users will be coming from. What does that mean? For one thing, English is not, in most cases, their first language. But I think that’s probably the list significant fact here. Where the future of publishing is concerned, if that future is on the Internet, then it is not in North America!
This chart, also © wwww.internetworldstats.com, presents the same data in a different format. It makes it easier to conclude that if you’re concerned about the future of publishing, don’t keep your eye just on North America.
There is a lot of moaning and groaning about “the digital divide” — the ostensible problem when the third world does not have as ready access to new technology as we do. I’m not a subscriber to this sorrow. First of all, the explosion of adoption of cellphone technology over the last 15 years greatly reduced the major problem in the third world for access to telephonic communication. That set a trend for other technologies. Second of all, pioneers like Nicholas
Negroponte are directly addressing the challenge of Internet access in the third world (see my “Influences” section on “Literacy”). Third of all, there are far too many corporations, NGOs and national governments that are fixated on this issue to imagine it will not soon be addressed. Fourth of all, a delay of a year or two in gaining Internet access, is, in my view, more a blessing than a curse. The Internet and the Web are marvelous tools; they don’t offer salvation. If you’re concerned about the digital divide, there’s a very good Shockwave graphic here: http://50×15.amd.com/en-us/internet_usage.aspx, which unfortunately does not translate through my authoring system for this site (although you can easily check the original from that URL).
It’s from the “50×15” site sponsored by AMD, the chip manufacturer. The logo to this Flash graphic explains: “According to the average percentage growth of worldwide Internet adoption projected over time, Internet access won’t reach fifty percent of the world’s population until 2030. Based on that projection and the goal of 50×15 to connect half the world to the Internet by 2015, we developed the above graph to show how worldwide Internet access would be accelerated accordingly. We understand that there are a number of ways to calculate Internet growth, world population, and even the rate at which programs such as 50×15 help increase the rate of Internet adoption globally. We also know that these statistics continually shift and will adjust our graph accordingly. Above all, we hope this graph generates awareness and continued interest regarding how we might all help to eliminate the digital divide.” This is essentially a sidenote, but a fascinating one nonetheless. W3 Schools tracks browser stats and at http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp offers the following chart:
Simple observation: The growth in adoption of IE7 is largely offset by the drop in usage of IE6. Stunning news: As of March of this year, Firefox held nearly a third of the market. This is not widely known, nor widely-accepted as truth.