State of the Internet
WHAT is the state of the Internet?
It’s not very good in this neck of the woods, if we compare ourselves with the rest of the world in terms of Internet penetration, access costs and speed of connection.
The first quarter State of the Internet report from Akamai, a major US-based provider of cloud services, shows that the Philippines had an average connection speed of only 2.1 megabits per second (Mbps) in the first quarter of 2014, near the bottom of a list of 14 Asia Pacific countries surveyed.
Our measly average connection speed compared poorly to South Korea (23.6 Mbps), Japan (14.6 Mbps), Hong Kong (13.3 Mbps), Taiwan (8.9 Mbps) and Singapore (8.4 Mbps).
The only countries with a slower average connection speed were Vietnam (2.0 Mbps) and India (1.7 Mbps).
The same study showed that the Philippines was not much better off in terms of average peak connection speed (18.8 Mbps), coming in 10th in a field of 14 Asia Pacific countries. This compared with South Korea (68.5 Mbps), Hong Kong (66 Mbps), Singapore (57.7 Mbps) and Japan (55.6 Mbps).
The Philippines did not even qualify for Akamai’s “high broadband” survey of countries with Internet connectivity of 10 Mbps or higher, because less than 1 percent (0.3 percent, to be exact) of users in this country have access to that kind of speed. This compares to South Korea, where 77 percent of users have 10 Mbps or more, or Japan (54 percent), Hong Kong (44 percent) and Taiwan (26 percent).
In fact, only 4.2 percent of users in the Philippines have access to Internet speeds of higher than 4 Mbps, the 13th lowest among 14 countries, better than only Vietnam (3.8 percent).
This low broadband penetration rate is borne out by a 2013 study by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development under the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
That study showed that only 2.2 of every 100 inhabitants had access to fixed broadband services in 2012. This ranked the Philippines 110th in a field of 183 countries, with a penetration rate well lower than the world average of 9.1 percent.
Our mobile broadband penetration was a little higher at 3.8 percent, but this was far lower than the world average of 22.1 percent.
In another study released in January 2014, the management consultant company Boston Consulting Group looked at factors that were inhibiting online interactions and transactions.
The study, commissioned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN, identified four sources of what it called “e-friction”:
• Infrastructure-related friction—the most significant—limits basic access to online activity. This includes obstacles related to access, speed and price.
• Industry-related sources of friction, such as shortages of capital and skilled labor, hold back successful online business operations and the development of digital businesses.
• Individual friction—payment systems and data security are two examples—affects the degree to which citizens and consumers engage in online activities.
• Information-related friction includes the volume of content available in a local language, a country’s commitment to Internet openness, and obstacles to accessing certain types of content.
In a field of 65 countries, the Philippines was ranked 47, again in the bottom half, behind Turkey and Kazakhstan, and just ahead of Thailand and Argentina.
Broken down by these components, our most serious problem was infrastructure, which had an e-friction rating that put us 53rd among 65.
Cost is clearly a limiting factor in broadband adoption.
Statistics gathered by Internet metrics company Ookla show that the Philippines has the 63rd most expensive Internet service among 64 countries, at $22.33 per Mbps (the only country more expensive is South Africa with $23.14).
Our high $22.33 per Mbps compares poorly indeed to our neighbors: Thailand at $2.34, Singapore at $2.60, Vietnam at $5.33, Malaysia at $10.21 and Indonesia at $16.01. This means Internet service here is eight to nine times more expensive than it is in Thailand and Singapore.
Given how important fast and affordable Internet access is in an increasingly digital world, our dismal figures are certainly cause for concern.