About 75% of the global population has never accessed the Internet. One of the biggest challenges that the technology world faces today is creating Internet access for the next billion people. According to the International Telecommunication Union’s ICT report of 2013, 90% of the households worldwide that are still unconnected to the Internet are in the developing world. Much of this lack of connectivity can be attributed to high set-up costs and low potential for returns in these areas. Often, in remote parts of the developing world, there may not be enough people to make traditional Internet services through cable, DSL or fibre profitable.
The biggest hope that one can hold in these situations is ubiquitous mobile penetration as a game changer. Jumping the usual cycle of DSL to cable to fibre to wireless, cities and towns in remote parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America may be connected to the Internet directly through wireless technology.
Some of the biggest experiments in providing wireless Internet connectivity to a large group of people have been in the field of education. Universities and schools across the globe have been providing wireless Internet throughout large campuses. Recently, over 600 public schools in rural Venezuela got wireless connectivity at a relatively low cost.
While governments are interested in connectivity for healthcare, education etc., the banking and finance industries have also played an important role in encouraging innovation. For instance, mobile money - the option of transacting through mobile phones - is seen as the technology that is set to change the face of the poor by providing them with convenient access to financial services.
At the Mobile World Congress recently, MasterCard announced its plan to launch a mobile payment technology especially aimed at the developing economies of Africa and Asia, where mobile phone adoption is higher than that of debit or credit cards. Newer and convenient technologies like SMS payments/mobile web payments are taking baby steps in the financial empowerment of developing economies. Stagnating markets in developed countries and opportunities in the rest of the world encourage the financial services industry to provide the much needed boost to establish wireless technology infrastructure.
The connectivity gap across the globe, especially in the developing world, is one that can be filled most quickly through wireless technology. The rough terrains of the unconnected world will prove to be a growing opportunity for businesses on the other side of connectivity.