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Internet and mobile use statistics for Asia: using data to distill ideas into research

I have been toying around a bit with some statistics on Asia’s rate of internet users as percentage of the population vs. mobile penetration (as percentage of the population) using Google’s Public Data Explorer (I am anxious to use Wolfram Alpha’s Pro option for a few months to see if I can improve upon these). For the more economically advanced nations among them (Korea, Japan, Malaysia inching upwards-where is the Taiwanese data?), one sees a general uptick in internet users as percentage of the population over a course of the last ten years. That all makes sense as these nations have invested singificantly in bandwidth and infrastructure over the last decade. 

For those less economically advanced (and these statistics indicate to me that China and Vietnam will soon be in that Korea and Japan stratosphere), we see a general, very limited increase in internet users as percentage of the population. Some uptick but Mongolia, Indonesia and Nepal have almost flatlined, which indicates to me that perhaps funding for ICT infrastructure and development has lost momentum. If I were to view this solely as an index measure for potential development, I would be concerned. 

[googleapps domain=”www” dir=”publicdata/embed” query=”ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=a&nselm=h&met_y=it_net_user_p2&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:NPL:VNM:KOR:JPN:CHN:MNG:KHM:LAO:PHL:IDN:MYS&ifdim=country&tstart=949935600000&tend=1234018800000&hl=en&dl=en_US&icfg” width=”500″ height=”425″ /]

However, once I measure these internet penetration rates against the mobile subscription rates (per 100 people), I am less concerned, especially for many of these same nations (Mongolia=82.94, Nepal=25.88, and Indonesia=67.08). We see significant (almost complete) saturation of the populace with mobile technology in some instances. Further, this data is 3 years old, so one could assume greater numbers in 2012. Some of these could indeed be individuals with multiple mobile devices, but as a measure of general adoption, these numbers are increasing and that is good. 

[googleapps domain=”www” dir=”publicdata/embed” query=”ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=a&nselm=h&met_y=it_cel_sets_p2&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:NPL:VNM:KOR:JPN:CHN:MNG:KHM:LAO:PHL:IDN:MYS&ifdim=country&tstart=949935600000&tend=1234018800000&hl=en&dl=en_US&icfg” width=”500″ height=”425″ /]

On a personal level, I use these statisitcs and these visualizations to scan for opportunity in ICT4D projects (academic or otherwise). I am not one who likes to create research just for the sake of it and so I scan statistics like these for potential environments where my proposed M4D ideas might take shape and succeed. I won’t go as far to say that we should all rely solely on statistics for pinpointing our research interests as many of these developing nations would be off the grid even then. But does this mobile adoption rate as compared to internet penetration percentages signal opportunities for networking functional segments of the populations in Mongolia, Vietnam, Nepal? Places where the physical environment itself can limit ICT infrastructure development? It sure does. It signals a great opportunity to leverage the steppes and nomads of Mongolia, the dense vegetation and distances of Vietnam, the endless mountains of Nepal. These statistics signal opportunity for networking and collaboration on scale. As such, they constitute the funnel in which all my daydreams are distilled into logical applications. 

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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