At the risk of being random, and lowering the overall quality of posts on here, I came across some rather interesting stats about internet use/access the other day, which seemed relevant after our recent class discussions about the changing sources of information in the world today.
National Geographic has produced a series of statistics based on dividing the world up by average per capita income level. They produced four groups: low-income level ($995 USD or less a year), lower middle (up to $3,945), upper middle (up to $12,195), and high (more than $12,196). There is then a range of statistics about these four sections of the world, but the ones I found particularly interesting were the number of internet users per 100 people: 2.3, 13.7, 29.9, and 68.3 respectively, and the number of personal computers per 100 people: 1.2, 4.3, 11.9, and 60.4.
We’ve been hearing a lot in class about how the internet and electronic resources are the way of the future, perhaps at the expense of traditional materials, and while the world may certainly be moving in that direction, it seems to me these statistics prove we’re not nearly there yet. Sure, there may be some countries in Europe that are striving for 100% access to broadband internet, but when you mix them in with all the other ‘high income’ countries in the world, it sill only brings per person access to internet of any kind up to 68.3 and computer use up to 60.4? That’s just not widespread enough for me to think it is justifiable for information professionals such as ourselves to lose sight of the importance of traditional sources of information. After all, literacy rates world-wide are much higher than internet and computer usage rates (66%, 80%, 93% and 98%) which indicates to me that for a significant part of the population literacy skills are important not for technological applications but rather for access the same traditional materials that have been available for years. In saying this, however, I must admit that the study also pointed out that “Most of the world accesses the Internet through computers shared in libraries, offices, or Internet cafes.” (my emphasis), so providing access to technology isn’t something information professionals can ignore either. I suppose the question, as always, is how to get the balance right. At least for me, a study like this one suggests that it might be more on the side of traditional materials than our western-centered, future-focused classes may suggest. Or is it possible that I too am guilty of choosing to pay most attention to the statistics that support my opinions?