Can the whole world be connected by 2020?

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt believes that come the end of the decade, everyone on the planet will be connected to the Internet.

According to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), in 2013, over 2.7 billion people are using the Internet, which corresponds to 39% of the world’s  population.

In the developing world, 31% of the population is online, compared with 77% in the developed world.

The ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs.

Speaking on his Google+ account on the weekend, Schmidt, who Forbes ranked as the 138th-richest person in the world in 2012, said:

“For every person online, there are two who are not. By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected.”

This generated a number of comments – from support, to disbelief, to scepticism, and insult.

“I definitely like reading these thoughts.. But +Eric Schmidt this is some pretty lofty shit to say. Let’s not get too carried away here.”

“Hopefully not at the same time, Eric. That would put quite some load on the many servers the Internet consist of.”

“Make it so.”

“Oh… +Eric Schmidt it won’t be possible here in India where literacy rate is 65%. Even in many developing nations, it won’t be possible in next 30-40 years. Where basic needs of human beings are not fulfilled yet, how come they can think of all these. Peoples are dying due to malnutrition, proper food and shelter. Wish by the decade end, hope everybody in the world have food and shelter. Let see how Google as a company plays a role in it.”

In a further comment Schmidt then said:

“Think about how great the internet is with 2B users. Now think about how amazing it will be when 5B come online in a decade.”

According to World Wide Worx MD, Arthur Goldstuck, statistically, Schmidt is correct, “but in human terms, the stats provide a very limited picture”.

Goldstuck noted that the Google lead was referring to numbers released in 2011 by the ITU showing one Internet subscription for very three human beings. “But that picture is heavily skewed by multiple subscriptions most Western users have,” he said.

“Most Western countries have more than 70% penetration and there is little doubt they will reach 100% by the end of the decade. In developing countries, it is highly unlikely,” Goldstuck said.

“If you count people instead of connections, it’s not even in the realms of possibility. In South Africa, we have 65% penetration of devices that are capable of accessing the Internet, but more than half of those users simply cannot afford to use that access,” he said.

On Tuesday (16 April) Schmidt said that Google attracted 1.5 million Android activations each day, up from 1.4 million in March, as reported by Endgadet.

Schmidt said that Google remains on track for one billion total devices by the end of 2013, with the key to that future growth – or hitting the “next five billion people looking to get connected,” – the $100 price point, which he said would be quickly achievable.

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Can the whole world be connected by 2020?