Why the Offline Are Offline

More than 400 million people use the Web on a daily basis, but there are billions of people who have neither heard of the Internet nor have any intention of going online anytime soon.

According to research by Ipsos-Reid, even among the most developed Internet markets in the world, such as the United States, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands, about one-third of the people who could use the Internet choose not to. In fact, the research found that only 6 percent of the world’s 6 billion citizens are online.

What’s going on?

“The answer is twofold,” said Brian Cruikshank, a senior vice president with Ipsos-Reid and leader of the company’s global technology practice. “In the developed world, a substantial number of people who could very easily go online have decided not to. They see no compelling reason to be on the Web. The hype and the promise of the Internet clearly hasn’t impressed them — not yet, at least. For others in nascent, less developed markets, the cost of accessing the Internet competes with the cost for basic necessities and access availability is very limited outside of urban areas.”

Ipsos-Reid surveyed people in 30 countries who aren’t on the Internet and who claim they have no plans to go online. The most frequently mentioned reasons for staying offline are “have no need for the Internet” (40 percent), “no computer” (33 percent), “no interest” (25 percent), “don’t know how to use it” (16 percent), “cost” (12 percent), or “no time” (10 percent).

In less-developed countries, where access to the Internet is a significant problem because of poverty and lack of a modern communications infrastructure, cost and access are cited as barriers more often than they are in major industrialized countries. In urban India and urban South Africa, for example, only one-quarter of the population has access to the Internet, and fewer than 10 percent of people report being recent users, the company found. In urban Russia, 83 percent of respondents reported having no Internet access at all.

“Those growing up on the Internet will one day make up the bulk of the population and there will be very few non-users down the road,” Cruikshank said. “But that’s maybe an entire generation away in many developing markets. In the meantime, you still have a massive group, that is not going to disappear overnight, of potential users who have the means, yet are still not convinced of the Web’s merits.”

While it may take some time for the Internet to truly come close to reaching ubiquity among those that want access, the growth is far from over.

“The next crest of the Internet wave will come from markets that are already well along the way — particularly in Western Europe — with the most capacity for upside surprises, since their social structures and communications infrastructures offer few barriers,” Cruikshank said. “In these countries, it’s simply a matter of time before more people go online. We have already started to see Europeans representing a larger proportion of the global Internet population.”

The Ipsos-Reid study also found that in some parts of the world, there are simply not enough access opportunities to go around. In other words, there are more adults with the intention of going online than there are adults with Internet access. These countries include South Korea and urban markets in Malaysia, India, Mexico and South Africa.

“Far from being dead, the Internet has a large growth potential everywhere, but progress is destined to be slower than its most enthusiastic advocates might have envisioned a few years ago,” Cruikshank said.

To expand the reach of the Web in developing countries, Cruikshank says that public venues such as libraries, schools, offices and Internet cafés will have to play a more crucial role. Compared to other widespread technologies, the Internet is still a long way off in many of the world’s most populated areas. Ipsos-Reid found that 98 percent of the respondents to its survey own a television, 51 percent own a cell phone, 48 percent own a home computer, but only 36 percent have home Internet access.

Biggest Reasons for Not Using Internet
Among Internet Non-Intenders
No need for it 40%
Don’t have a computer 33%
Not interested in it 25%
Don’t know how to use it 16%
Cost (general) 12%
Not enough time to use it 8%
Not able/too old 7%
Don’t know how to get it 3%
Current PC/terminal can’t access Web 2%
Content not of interest/use/relevant 2%
Not my choice/decision at work 2%
Content not in my language 1%
Cost for Internet ISP/subscription/access costs 1%
Cost — local telephone and toll service charges 1%
All other responses 4%
Unsure 2%
Source: Ipsos-Reid

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