Facebook, which commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to create a comprehensive “Inclusive Internet Index,” found India in the middle of Asian countries (12th out of 23) when it comes to connectivity.
“India places at or near the top of the lower-middle-income bracket on most indicators, except for availability, where it is 13th out of 23, compromised by low usage and poor quality despite relatively strong infrastructure,” the report said.
The EIU is a British business within the Economist Group, providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.
This year’s index covered 91 per cent of the world’s population and an expanded data set of 86 countries, up from 75 countries in 2017.
Across the indexed countries, on average, men are 33.5 per cent more likely to have Internet access than women.
“The gap is even larger in low-income countries, which have an average gender access gap of 80.2 per cent compared with 3.7 per cent among high-income countries,” said Molly Jackman, Public Policy Research Manager at Facebook.
The index assessed a country’s Internet inclusion across four categories: availability, affordability, relevance and readiness.
“Bringing people online can offer life-changing opportunities, but there are still approximately 3.8 billion people without Internet access. At Facebook, we’re working to change that,” added Robert Pepper, Head of Global Connectivity Policy at Facebook, in a blog post.
“Global connectivity has increased 8.3 per cent and more people are connected than ever before. While this progress is encouraging, we are still far from achieving full Internet inclusivity,” Pepper added.
According to the index, the Internet is empowering, especially to citizens in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Nearly 67 per cent of survey respondents believes that access to the Internet is a human right.
“Not only do people say that the Internet helped them become more confident to express themselves, but the majority of respondents also say that the Internet has helped them become more independent and economically empowered,” the index noted.
Emerging markets, especially in Africa, experienced the fastest and greatest progress over the last year.
According to Facebook, mobile Internet services are increasingly vital in many low-income countries.
“In some countries, fixed-line Internet access is too expensive or inaccessible – that’s why mobile services are critical. The index reveals that coverage of 4G networking services grew significantly as networks in low-income countries are being upgraded,” Facebook said.
In fact, the average 4G coverage rate for low-income countries increased year-over-year from 9.1 per cent to 17.3 per cent.
The cost of accessing the Internet is also falling.
The cost of mobile broadband data plans in lower-income countries decreased about 17.3 per cent from last year.
“Overall, however, people are still devoting too much of their earnings on Internet access relative to their income level,” the index noted.