6. How can the global convergence of information and communications technologies work for everyone?

There arenow more Internet users in China than in the United States. About 1.4 billionpeople (21% of the world) are connected to the Net and 3.3 billion mobilephones are active. The Internet and mobile phones are merging. The Internet isevolving from a passive information repository (Web 1.0), to a user-generatedand participatory system (Web 2.0), and eventually to a more intelligentpartner with collective intelligence and just-in-time knowledge (Web 3.0),eventually interconnecting humanity with much of the built environment. TheInternet is already the most powerful force for globalization, democratization,economic growth, and education in history. If Moore’s Law continues, within 25years a computer will equal the processing power of the human brain; 25 yearsafter that, everyone could access processing power beyond that of all the humanbrains on Earth.

Althoughthe digital divide continues to close, special efforts are needed to lowercost, increase reliability, and improve educational and business usage in orderto help close the economic divides. Businesses, governments, foundations, andUN organizations are collaborating to make “universal” broadband possible. “OneLaptop Per Child” costs $178 in large lots to developing countries and may dropto $75 by 2010; meanwhile Intel’s second generation Classmate PCs and teachertraining programs may eclipse one laptop per child even at the $300 price.

Internetbases with wireless transmission are being constructed in remote villages, cellphones with Internet are being designed for educational access by the lowestincome groups, and new business models are being created to connect the poorest2 billion people to the evolving nervous system of civilization. E-governmentsystems can support justice, democratization, education, and economicdevelopment by delivering services, providing citizen feedback channels, andinitiating public-private partnerships and future possibilities such as anelectronic Peace Corps and tele-nations to connect people overseas with thedevelopment processes back home.

Meanwhile,e-mail, phone, instant messaging, and collaborative software link groups ofpeople for the first time in humanitarian, scientific, and business projects.The Internet is beginning to connect very low-cost nanotech sensors, cameras,and transceivers in buildings and other objects for marketing, security, andenvironmental management. Businesses are building offices in Second Life andother cyberworlds that compete with conventional reality, and Wikipedia isbecoming a global collective intelligence. Online social networks are new formsof transnational democracy for emergent collective conscience and action. Thegreatest entrepreneurial success in history was the sale of YouTube for $1.65billion just 21 months after it was founded.

Multimediagrowth on the Internet could triple in three years, slowing everything downuntil infrastructures are dramatically upgraded. The OECD forecast thatInternet addresses that identify devices connected to the Net will be used upwithin three years. Increasing numbers of people are beginning to manage moreof their data and software applications on the Web—eliminating worries aboutsoftware updates or file backups, but increasing data privacy issues and moredemand on the Internet.

Sincecyberspace has become a new medium for civilization, the full range of humanbehavior from individual philanthropy to organized crime grows on the Internet.Cybercrime (estimated at $105 billion) is replacing spam as a thrivinginternational business. A global intellectual arms race is needed to counteronline markets for illegal software and data and illegal or counterfeit drugs,international cyber attacks, and pornography. Business loss due to a range ofcyber crimes is estimated at 8–10% of revenues. The Web is now the majorrecruitment and training tool for violent extremists. Fundamentalrethinking will be required to counter future forms of information warfare thatotherwise could lead to the distrust of all forms of information in cyberspace.

Regional Considerations

Africa: Internet users in Africa increased by 31% in 2007,with penetration rising to 4.7%. New fiber-optic cables to cut cost and speedaccess are planned to link Africa to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, at acost of $6.4 billion. Only six African countries have penetration rates greaterthan 8%. Africa is increasingly using mobile phones to provide Net access.Nearly 90% of all telephones in Africa are mobile. Tele-education,tele-medicine, and e-government will become more important as Africanprofessionals die of AIDS in increasing numbers.

Asia and Oceania: Asia has the largest percent of theworld’s Internet users (39%) but only 14% penetration. Chinese is the secondmost common language on the Internet, even with only 10% penetration in China.It had 20 million blogs, 1.3 million Web sites, 11,000 ISPs, and 600 millionmobile phones by July 2008. Online business in China increased 66% in 2007 to$295 billion, but the government continues its strong controls to preventreception of “harmful” information. India’s Net users grew 33% during 2007 andits software and services exports are expected to reach $60 billion by 2010.Japanese is tied with English in blogosphere usage. South Korea continues tolead the world in broadband penetration.

Europe: Europe has 348 million Internet users, with 43.4%penetration, led by Germany with 53.2%, while Russian users increased by 21%over last year. The EC has proposed a new ?55-million “Safer Internet” programto tackle child pornography, pedophilia, and digital bullying. Frenchcandidates campaigned in Second Life. Russian Net population is estimated at 35million, broadband at 4.8 million, and efforts to better connect rural areasand schools have begun. In response to Estonia’s request for help to counterlarge-scale cyberwarfare that paralyzed its networks, affecting government,police, ministries, banks, and media, NATO is establishing a Cyber DefenseCenter of Excellence in Estonia with cyber security response teams.

Latin America: Uruguay is the first country to purchase100,000 “one laptop per child” laptops; 200,000 more are expected in 2009 tocover all public school children between 6 and 12 years old. Peru has purchased270,000, and billionaire Carlos Slim purchased 50,000 for Mexico. Vina del Marin Chile became the first city in Latin America with free broadband Internetaccess. Cuba is now allowing ordinary citizens to possess cell phones. OnlyArgentina, Uruguay, and Chile have greater than 30% penetration in LatinAmerica, while most of the rest are at 20–25%. Brazil is bringing Internetaccess to 150 communities in the Amazon region. Fulfilling the promise of thesetechnologies for international collaboration and development will require moreserious attention to training.

North America: Broadband carriers are fighting “Netneutrality,” which would prevent them from charging on the basis of user orcontent type. The U.S. is not well placed for Web 2.0 and 3.0 since it hasfallen to 15th in broadband penetration in the world, and its top broadbandspeeds are several times slower than those of Japan and South Korea. MIT hasopened a Center for Collective Intelligence. Natural disaster planning iscreating an information infrastructure for collective intelligence. Dependingon definitions, there were 10,000–80,000 cyber attacks on the U.S. governmentduring 2007. The Web is playing a major role in the 2008 U.S. presidentialelection.

Figure 4. Regional Internet population growth

Source:  internetworldstats.com