57% of global urban population still not connected to broadband

Research from the Wireless Broadband Alliance highlighted broadband connectivity is no longer a challenge reserved for rural areas, as 57% of the world’s urban population is currently unconnected.

Initiatives to increase the number of people who have a consistent connection to the internet has predominantly focused around rural communities, though the report demonstrated there are still a number of advanced western cities who have higher numbers than maybe expected.

The research, which was launched to coincide with World Wifi Day (June 20), showed New York and Los Angeles currently have 27% and 25% of their populations who would be classed in the “Urban Broadband Unconnected” category. Shanghai was another city where the percentage of unconnected urban citizens seems high at 42%.

While New York, Los Angeles and Shanghai could be seen as technologically advanced cities, the seemingly high number of unconnected citizens could be attributed to the diversity in wealth and affluence. The report claims the numbers could be driven simply by broadband not being available in certain neighbourhoods, but also the price of broadband being unaffordable. While this would almost certainly be considered a ‘first-world problem’, there could be a potential impact on other areas of society, for example politics, as more communications move online, in particular to social media.

The CIA World Fact Book lists the USA as one of the world’s most affluent countries, accounting for $55,800 GDP per capita, which makes the statistics taken from two of its leading cities perhaps more surprising, though it does provide clarity to the high percentages in other nations. Lagos and Karachi were two of the cities which demonstrated the highest number of unconnected urban citizens at 88% and 86% respectively, though their GDP per capita is listed at $6,100 and $5,000, and are two countries which have been typically associated with political unrest.

“There is a clear divide between the digital haves and the digital have-nots,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance. “And while this divide generally mirrors socioeconomic trends around the world, there are surprisingly high levels of urban unconnected citizens in major cities.

“World Wifi Day (June 20) is an opportunity to recognize the contributions being made to help connect the unconnected around the globe, whether they be in major cities or rural communities.”

The report evaluated 18 of the worlds’ leading cities including Tokyo, Dusseldorf, New Delhi, Johannesburg and London, which was listed as the worlds’ most connected city as only 8% of the population are unconnected currently. Europe was the most connected continent demonstrating the lowest levels of unconnected citizens at 17%, while in Asia Pacific 68% of its urban citizens were unconnected.

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