Finding the Next Billion Internet Users

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“In 2006 the Internet reached one billion users for the first time. Although this is an impressive and significant milestone, a billion people still make up only 16 per cent of the world's population. Moreover, the people who are not yet online tend to be quite different than those already using the Internet, in terms of their locations, their incomes, and their education and literacy. Nevertheless, the billions of people in poor countries are increasingly in the fastest-growing economies, what economists and business leaders call "emerging markets." And there is a near-universal demand for communications technologies. In fact, 2006 is also the first year in which the mobile telephone business will sell one billion handsets in a single year. Most of the growth in mobile telephony is coming from the developing world.The computer industry is beginning to adapt to the conditions of emerging markets in Brazil, India, China, Russia, Latin America and Africa. New devices are appearing, such as Advanced Micro Devices' Personal Internet Communicator, or the low-cost laptop computer developed by the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child. Some countries are pushing free, Open Source software such as the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Others are experimenting with new technologies for connectivity, such as wireless or even asynchronous "data mules." Over the past two years there has been a burst of innovation in IT solutions for developing countries, and, for the first time, IT companies are beginning to view the poorest half of the world as a market opportunity of immense significance. International organizations such as the United Nations are also now committed to bringing the Internet to the entire world's population.The panel on "Finding the Next Billion Internet Users" will look at the challenges and opportunities of this new effort of introducing and sustaining Internet use in the developing world. The panelists will discuss the current picture in developing countries, and some of the more successful strategies for bringing the next billion users online.”

Moderator: Gary Chapman Sr Lecturer, The University of Texas at Austin