Internet Access and the “Arab Spring”

I’ve now updated my “Internet Access” data and was happy (but not surprised) to see the number of people able to access the internet globally increase by quite  a bit. The numbers, however, are still from 2010 and I suspect that in 2011, they will have really started climbing. (I’m looking for reliable data on this but haven’t stumbled across any yet — can’t wait till I do!)

Though most of the countries increased by just a few percentage points, there were some standouts; Bosnia (around 15% increase), Chile (11%), Croatia (10%), the Dominican Republic (almost 14%), Israel (15%), Panama (15%) and Qatar (almost 40%!).

(There were also some inexplicable declines especially in Europe which I can only assume were earlier corrections of data, i.e., Iceland decreased from 98% to 95.8%. The Ukraine also declined from 33% to 22.8%. Not sure at all what this means but overall global numbers went up which makes more sense. Maybe problems with cost started to become an issue in some of the European countries where this seemed to be happening most.)

One country that stands out particularly in the rapid transition to an internet-connected population, is Kenya, which went from 10% to 25.9% of their population having access to their internet by the end of 2010. And this ties in to one very interesting aspect of internet connection which is the degree to which it has allowed for the coordination of political opposition. (I’m pretty sure the numbers of internet-connected citizens in the “Arab Spring” countries will have gone up by quite a lot during 2011.) Kenyans used the internet extremely effectively to spread the word about politically motivated brutal attacks in post-election violence in 2007-2008.

Could the increase in internet access across Africa signal an “African Spring,” and the overthrow of some of the seemingly-unmovable “dictators for life”? As the African continent connects to the rest of the world with impressive alacrity, not only will we find out, we’ll see every moment.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

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