Across the world, two in 10 households have access to the Internet at home, according to a just-released Gallup survey.
Internet access at home was far greater in more economically advanced
countries: Nearly eight in 10 people (78 percent) in countries where
gross domestic product (GDP) is more than $25,000 have Internet access
at home. Home Internet access drops off steeply in less affluent, less
developed nations, according to the Gallup survey, especially in
countries with less than $10,000 in per capita GDP. The survey is based
on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000
adults, aged 15 and older in 116 countries, and was conducted in 2009.
above, by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute, shows the
percentage of households with Internet connectivity, highlighting the
The study notes the connection between home Internet connectivity and
both urbanization and economic development. "Populations in the most
connected countries also tend to be highly urbanized, reducing the cost
of extending Internet delivery modes - whether phone and cable lines or
wireless towers - to a high proportion of residents. Two of the most
connected populations in the world - residents of Singapore and Hong
Kong - are entirely urban," the study reports, adding that: "Internet
access is clearly a function of economic development; as recent trends
in China demonstrate, demand for electronics and online services grows as living standards rise along with disposable income levels."
Home Internet connectivity is indeed a function of economic
development, as my analysis with Charlotta Mellander finds, but it is
also related to the transition from industrial to post-industrial
Source: World Development Indicators for 2006.
Home Internet connectivity is closely associated with economic output
measured as gross regional product per capita according to our
analysis, with a correlation of .89. It is also closely correlated with
total factor productivity (.87), the UN Human Development Index (.84),
and the Global Competitiveness Index (.84) - various measures of the
level and extent of economic development.
Source: World Development Indicators for 2006, calculations by Charlotta Mellander.
But other factors also appear to be at play. It is not just the level
of economic development that matters, but its nature and type, notably
the transition from older, industrial-style economies and societies to
newer, post-industrial ones, as I noted in a previous post.
Post-industrial economies are distinguished by more highly educated
populations or higher human capital levels; higher levels of
knowledge-based, professional, and creative class jobs; higher levels of
innovation and R&D; higher levels of entrepreneurship and business
formation; and a shift toward more open-minded and tolerant values -
what Ronald Inglehart has dubbed "post-materialist values." My recent research
with Charlotta Mellander and Jason Rentfrow finds evidence that
post-industrial socioeconomic structures and post-materialist values
matter to the happiness of nations, especially of the most advanced
nations, in addition to the effects of income and the level of economic
Source: Based on average level of education by Barro and Lee, 2001.
Home Internet connectivity is closely associated with the level of
human capital (.73 ) and with the percentage of the workforce that are
members of the creative class (.71).
Source: International Labour Organization 2000-2006 (an average).
Home Internet access is also closely associated with the level of
innovation measured as patents (.86), research and development efforts
(.89), and entrepreneurship (.69).
Source: USPTO, 2000-2006.
Home Internet connectivity is also closely correlated with happiness
(.67) and slightly less so with more open and tolerant attitudes toward
gays and lesbians (.48) and racial and ethnic minorities (.3).
Source: Gallup World Poll, 2008.
This is just a preliminary first-cut analysis. I point out that
correlation does not imply causation and other intervening factors
likely come into play. We hope to look at all of this in further
analysis with more advanced statistical techniques. But, for now, we can
say that while income and the level of economic development play an
important role in home Internet connectivity, it is also related to the
type and nature of economic development and the values it engenders.
There is something in the nature of post-industrial economies that
appears to work in addition to the effects of income. Perhaps it is that
people with higher levels of education encourage people to be more
connected. Or perhaps people in knowledge-based jobs feel they have to
be more connected or their jobs require them to be connected at home as
well as at work. Whatever it is, it is clear that not just the level of
economic development, but the nature and type of development and the
attitudes it brings into play matter to many facets of life today, from
overall happiness and well-being to being connected online at home.