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Global broadband slows

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A recent report has revealed that 57% of the world’s population is offline and is unable to take advantage of the economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

Broadband Internet is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with Internet access reaching near-saturation in the world’s rich nations but not advancing fast enough to benefit the billions of people living in the developing world, according to the 2015 edition of the State of Broadband report.

Released just ahead of the forthcoming SDG Summit in New York and the parallel meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development on September 26, the report reveals that 57% of the world’s people remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

Access to information and communication technologies, particularly broadband Internet, has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of development, with the importance of ICT connectivity specifically recognized in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. With the 17 goals now firmly on the global agenda, governments and private industry both have a strong interest in finding ways to get people online, the report argues.

The Broadband Commission comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of ICTs to drive new national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.

“The UN Sustainable Development Goals remind us that we need to measure global development by the number of those being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “The market has done its work connecting the world’s wealthier nations, where a strong business case for network roll-out can easily be made. Our important challenge now is to find ways of getting online the four billion people who still lack the benefits of Internet connectivity, and this will be a primary focus of the Broadband Commission going forward.”

Produced annually by the Broadband Commission, The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.

New figures in the report confirm that 3.2 billion people are now connected, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population. But while access to the Internet is approaching saturation levels in the developed world, the Net is only accessible to 35% of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries is particularly critical, with over 90% of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.

This year’s figures show that the top ten countries for household Internet penetration are all located in Asia or the Middle East. The Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration, with 98.5% of homes connected; Qatar (98%) and Saudi Arabia (94%) are ranked second and third respectively.

Iceland has the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet (98.2%), just ahead of near-neighbours Norway (96.3%) and Denmark (96%).

Monaco remains very slightly ahead of Switzerland as the world leader in fixed broadband penetration, at over 46.8% of the population compared with the Swiss figure of 46%. There are now six economies (Monaco, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Liechtenstein and France) where fixed broadband penetration exceeds 40%, up from just one (Switzerland) in 2013.

The Asia-Pacific region now accounts for half of all active mobile broadband subscriptions, with Macao, China easily taking top place with 322 active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people – or just over 3 subscriptions per inhabitant – followed by second-ranked Singapore (156 subscriptions per 100 people) and Kuwait (140 subscriptions per 100 people).

In total, there are now 79 countries where over 50% of the population is online, up from 77 in 2014. The top ten countries for Internet use are all located in Europe. The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2% of the population in Guinea (1.7%), Somalia (1.6%), Burundi (1.4%), Timor Leste (1.1%) and Eritrea (1.0).

“The 2030 Agenda recognizes the power of new technologies to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide, to develop knowledge societies – we must do everything to support States in reaching these goals, especially developing States,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova. “This calls for stronger efforts by governments and all actors, in ensuring access, use and affordability – it requires also greater work to build the capacities of all women and men to make the most of all new opportunities.”

The Commission’s advocacy around the importance of broadband has seen the number of countries with a National Broadband Plan in place grow from 102 in 2010, when the Commission began its work, to 148 today, according to the report.

The State of Broadband 2015 is the fourth edition of the Commission’s broadband connectivity report. Released annually, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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