Digital Landscape: Narrowing the Access Gap Between the Developed and Emerging Worlds

Strategy Briefing

About This Report

Sep 2016

The global digital landscape is defined by the narrowing of the digital gap between developed and emerging markets. While developed nations lead in internet access, emerging countries have witnessed improved uptake of mobile broadband and digital commerce. By 2030, China and India will dominate the emerging world due to higher fixed-broadband and data usage. Income inequality and privacy concerns are barriers to greater digital adoption.

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Digital Landscape: Narrowing the Access Gap Between the Developed and Emerging Worlds

Asia Pacific global internet hub in 2016

Asia Pacific will be home to more than half of global internet users in 2016, a result of a fast-expanding mobile subscriber base across the region. China is the regional leader in mobile internet usage and mobile-based shopping.

Africa’s mobile revolution will continue in 2016

Competition, proactive regulations and young population will result in the world’s fastest growth in African internet users in 2016. Though rapid expansion in cellular networks will drive internet uptake, governments are expanding fixed-broadband networks for better rural internet coverage.

Digital gap between emerging and developed nations will narrow over 2015-2030

Over 2015-2030, emerging nations will witness fast growth in mobile internet coverage and account for a higher proportion of mobile internet subscribers than developed markets. By 2030, the Middle East and Africa will replace Western Europe and Latin America will unseat North America as the regions with the most mobile internet subscriptions.

India will be the most attractive emerging market; the US will lead the developed world

By 2030, the most attractive telecom markets will be India, Iran, Mexico, the US and France. India will have one of the fastest fixed-broadband growth rates in Asia over next 15 years while rural telecom investments will extend service to more pockets of the US.

Income inequality and data privacy are key factors impeding digital adoption

While access to digital services have been growing at a healthy pace, factors such as income inequality and concerns surrounding data privacy continue to act as barriers for digital connectivity. Ageing populations in the developed world, the persistent rural-urban digital divide globally and higher cost of services in emerging markets are other challenges for digital adoption.


Scope of this strategy briefing
Key findings

State of the Digital Landscape

The digital gap between the emerging and developed worlds
In 2016 over half of global internet users will live in Asia Pacific
Asia Pacific’s mobile subscriber base to cross four billion in 2016
Access to high-speed mobile internet propels China’s mobile spend
Smaller Asian markets will drive region’s mobile internet growth
Africa is at forefront of telecom revolution due to mobile telephony
African governments strengthening fixed-broadband networks

Markets to Watch

Rising mobile coverage will narrow the digital gap by 2030
MEA will post fastest growth in mobile internet through to 2030
Faster growth in emerging world’s mobile internet subscriber share
Telecom markets with the greatest potential over 2015-2030
India: Regional leader in broadband growth over 2015-2030
Iran: Lifting of Western sanctions to propel digital expansion
Mexico: Higher mobile internet coverage, lower income inequality
US: Maintains distinction as world’s largest telecom market
France: One of developed world’s broadband growth leaders

Barriers to Digital Adoption

Five barriers most affecting digital connectivity
Income inequality: Improving internet access remains key hurdle
Age divide: Operators need to reach “digital seniors”
Businesses can reach affluent seniors with targeted marketing
Rural-urban divide: Governments look to bridge broadband gap
Data privacy: Data theft concerns affect smartphone purchases
High costs: Emerging market consumers face high prices

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