Despite growth, over 2 billion remain offline in Asia Pacific region

March 24, 2016 / by / 0 Comment
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While Asia Pacific remains the largest region in the world in terms of mobile penetration, a large number of its consumers still has no access to the Internet. In a report released by Internet Society (IS), it said that more than half of the region’s 4.3 billion remains offline, which means governments and network carriers still have to cater to more than 2 billion non-internet users across Asia.

Rajnesh Singh, Director of the Internet Society’s Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau, said that the mobile revolution in the region has made it at par with neighboring nations, but key entities must still double their efforts in introducing and convincing far-flung areas on the advantages of being connected.

“[The challenge], is to cultivate greater choice and encourage use of the mobile Internet in a way that develops its capacity to be more than just another means of communication,” he added.

The improved economic milieu in Asia Pacific has opened doors for faster mobile penetration. The increasing buying power of middle class sectors enticed major and smaller smartphone manufacturers to either expand or commence operations in the region.

According to a report by GSMA Intelligence, the region has recorded a 46 percent penetration rate improvement in terms of unique mobile subscribers, with 33 percent growth being added to its mobile internet usage in the second half of 2015. Its data revealed a more conservative result to the IS report, saying that at least 76 percent of its 3.99 billion population in 2015 has already been addressed by telcos and providers, leaving only 96 million people to cover.

Moreover, Internet speed remains a crucial issue in Asia Pacific. Although many countries in the region lead the race to fastest Internet speeds in the world, a large fraction of Asia Pacific member countries remains among the world’s slowest. The Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, despite being the fastest growing economies in the region, are still among the slowest in the world.

Nonetheless, the current dismal internet and mobile network speeds in some Asian countries have opened doors to some foreign investors. Among which is 5BARz International, a US-based company that pioneered the only radio frequency network extender device on the market. The company just recently announced its successful market launch in India after it successfully inked a distribution deal with two Tier One local telcos, with Vodafone being its first client.

Countries on the top 20 standings, however, are the ones enjoying newer smartphone and internet features that have been only initially commenced in North American and European countries.

Digital wallets, for instance, have gained instant popularity in China, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan, among Asian countries with fastest internet speeds. Better internet connection allows mobile consumers to access the web and purchase online anytime and anywhere without having major connection-related problems. Digital payment system, according to CM Innovation, has seen the fastest growth across all Asian countries since 2013.

Japan, China, and South Korea are the three leading countries in the region with high interest in smart-home technologies. With the exception of China, these countries, along with New Zealand, Singapore, and Australia, are the region’s most vulnerable to security threats, due to the quantity and quality of digital information being generated in their respective premises.

South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore are collectively known as “Cyber Five,” or the five biggest cyber leaders in Asia Pacific.

According to a report by Deloitte, these nations are nine times more vulnerable to cyberattack than other Asian economies, as the amount of global container traffic moving through Asia-Pacific has already increased by 50 percent. The study explained that these economic superpowers will remain the most heavily dependent on internet-based interactions, making them highly attractive to hackers and terrorists.

The Asia Pacific mobile market has gone bigger to an extent that the US’s responsibility as a global online overseer could be transferred to any country in the region’s “Cyber Five” giants. Information Age reported that the US is on its final year as global Internet supervisor.

Jia-Rong Low, vice president and managing director for ICANN’s Asia Pacific chapter, said that it is just logical to choose Asia should the US abdicates its position as overseer. “The region is home to roughly half of the world’s Internet population, which is just over three billion. The next billion Internet users are expected to come from developing nations, including many Asian countries such as China, India and Indonesia,” he explained.

The region is expected to be more attractive to foreign investors as industry leaders race to become the first penetrator of Asia’s remaining Internet-deprived areas.



Alessandra Rose Miguel-Descalso is a freelance journalist. She covers a wide range of industries, from music to mining and technology, for global publications.