The statement that underlies this text is from the former American President Barack Obama, who, in essence, underlines what remains to be the enormous impact of the Internet on contemporary society and humanity.
Like water or electricity, the truth is that the Internet, in fact, has become a dependency for much of the world’s population. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there are an estimated 3,448 million Internet users worldwide, an impressive number that has grown more than three times since 2005. At that time, they were “just over” 1 billion Internet users.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there are an estimated 3,448 million Internet users worldwide, an impressive number that has grown more than three times since 2005.
However, this number reveals another harsh reality. In practice, it confirms that we live in an unjust world, an unequal and asymmetrical world that does not respond equitably to the needs of the citizens scattered throughout our planet. It is that those almost 3.5 billion Internet users account for less than half the world’s population. The truth is that only 47 out of 100 inhabitants are Internet users, that is, with the Internet being a necessity, more than half of the population is on the margins of its use and of the benefits of this technology.
If we disaggregate the information by the level of development of the countries, 81 out of every 100 inhabitants in the developed countries are Internet users, while only 40 out of every 100 inhabitants in the developing countries are Internet users. In the regional context, in Europe we are 79 in every 100 inhabitants, while in Africa there are 25 in every 100 inhabitants Internet users. In Asia and the Pacific we are talking about 42 out of 100.
Turning to the Portuguese reality, according to data recently published by INE, we are 70% Internet users, below the EU28 average.
Turning to the Portuguese reality, according to data recently published by INE, we are 70% Internet users, a number below the EU28 average. However, as it happens in the international context, this number does not say everything in relation to what is happening in Portugal. In order to know more about our reality, we must mention that in the North there are 65%, while in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (AM Lisboa) there are 82%, which confirms, also, that also in this matter the regional asymmetries registered in our country are significant.
This is even confirmed by the Regional Digital Index that measures the regional asymmetries in the construction of the Information Society in Portugal. The edition published in June 2016 in a partnership between Universidade do Minho / CCG and FCT, records the enormous supremacy of AM Lisboa in relation to all other Portuguese NUTs II regions, not only in the global index, but also in each of the four sub-indices that integrate the IDR: Context, Infrastructure, Utilization and Impact.
There is a need to find ways to blur asymmetries and to promote more equitable access and use of ICT and the Internet, not only in the global context, but also in our own country.
In this world characterized by the rapid technological evolution, assuming as true the opening phrase of President Obama that considers the Internet a necessity, it is urgent to find ways to blur asymmetries and to promote conditions of greater justice for access and use to ICT and the Internet, not only in the global context, but also in our own country. To do this, we need to know our territory much better than we know it today, not only as a whole, but above all according to local and regional specificities and weaknesses. Only in this way will we be able, now and in the future, to define public (and private) policies that can make our country more cohesive and, by the way, globally more competitive.
- Image: Byte Back
- Instituto Nacional de Estatística: http://www.ine.pt
- International Telecommunication Union: http://www.itu.int
- Eurostat: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat
- Ferreira, L., Amaral, L., (2016). Índice Digital Regional 2015. Gávea – Laboratório de Estudo e Desenvolvimento da Sociedade da Informação. Universidade do Minho, Guimarães. http://hdl.handle.net/1822/42161
Luís Miguel Ferreira | External researcher @CCG
Luís Miguel Ferreira has a degree in Mathematics, a Master in Mathematics Teaching and a PhD in Information Technologies and Systems from the University of Minho, with a thesis on “Measuring the Information Society in the Regional Context: A new instrument and its application to the current situation”. He expresses interest in research in the area of measurement of information society and e-government. He has been collaborating with the national authorities responsible for the information society and the development of e-government. He is also an external researcher of the GCC.