Why you should care
Because the Internet means cash, and these countries are amping up for a change in their business climates.
Some of the lowest rates of Internet usage are in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s about to change. Titans of the Internet age — like Facebook and Google — are now looking for ways to blend profit and philanthropy to bring more of Africa online, and governments are also getting involved. Increased connectivity can’t solve every problem, but access to information benefits society in new ways every day.
India has already overtaken Japan as the third-largest Internet user in the world. And this year, with 243 million of its 1.2 billion residents online, it’s expected to become the second-largest when it pushes past the United States, putting it behind only China. While usage is still dominated by the college-educated, English-speaking crowd, about 42 percent of Indians will surf in their regional dialect — speaking to a whole other kind of boom in local content production. The Indians — and their $4.8 trillion economy — are coming.
Can the huge online-work wave really save Africa? According to the Africa experts at the Rockefeller Foundation, by 2015, Africa’s market for online jobs is predicted to reach $5 billion. That industry of online work is a big one, including jobs for workers with a variety of backgrounds, ranging from writing a simple landing page for a small-business website to $15,000 consulting posts for occasional back-end programming problems. The problem: All the online jobs in the world will only go so far if potential workers can’t access the Internet.
Some pretty innovative things are happening with the Internet in China these days, and it’s not the dogs in pantyhose — or not just those, anyway. In fact, the Chinese are well on their way to opting out of the Internet entirely, or a least the version of it that everyone else in the world is using. In China, the Web is already something quite different than what it is in the West and the rest of the less censored world, and the prospect of a separate Chinese Internet is not mere speculation. With new technology in the works, the division between China’s Internet and the rest of the world’s will only widen.