Connect to share and comment

Global Chats

Nov. 17 Chat: The web's next billion

Related Article: 
The internet’s new billion
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 12:00 - 12:30

A new internet era is upon us, with explosive growth from the multitudes in emerging nations who are taking to cyberspace — largely out of necessity. How will this change the web?

GlobalPost senior correspondent Erik German — who wrote about the net's next billion — joined us from Rio de Janeiro for a web chat on Wednesday Nov. 17 at noon, Eastern time.

Below is the transcript of the chat.

 

11:50

Scott

Erik, you chronicled a number of obstacles to engagement, but are there
places on the web where western users are or could interact more
directly with the next billion?

11:51

GlobalPost

Hi there

11:51

GlobalPost

We're going to wait a few minutes to get started

11:53

Scott

Jumped the gun...sorry.

11:54

GP-ChatHost

Not a problem, we appreciate your enthusiasm! We will be getting the chat officially started at noon.

12:00

GlobalPost

Greetings all

12:00

GlobalPost

Welcome to GlobalPostMembership’s chat with Erik German.

12:00

GlobalPost

Erik is GlobalPost’s senior Brazil correspondent.

12:01

GlobalPost

He just wrote a story on the “internet’s new billion” about the explosive
growth of internet users in developing countries, including Brazil.

12:01

GlobalPost

He’s here today to talk about how these users will change the web.

12:01

GlobalPost

We want to invite all of you to submit questions to Erik during the chat.

12:01

Erik-German

Hi, everyone.

12:01

GlobalPost

Now for our first question:

12:01

GlobalPost

Erik, your piece is about another billion users coming online, but when did we pass the first billion mark?

12:02

Erik-German

We passed it sometime in 2005.

12:02

Erik-German

That's what the UN International Telecommunications Union says anyway.

12:02

GlobalPost

Where were those first billion users located?

12:03

Erik-German

Mostly in North America, Europe and Japan.

12:03

Erik-German

If you go back to the year 2000, something like 72 percent of internet users were in those three places.

12:03

Erik-German

Add in China at that point in time and you’re almost at 80 percent.

12:03

GlobalPost

And this new billion, where will they be?

12:04

Erik-German

They're going to largely be located in the fastest-growing countries in the developing world.

12:04

Erik-German

Which mostly means the BRIC countries.

12:04

Erik-German

As in Brazil

12:04

Erik-German

Russia

12:04

Erik-German

India

12:04

Erik-German

China

12:04

Erik-German

plus Indonesia.

12:04

GlobalPost

Feel free to jump in with questions everyone

12:05

Erik-German

Are you still there, Scott?

12:05

GlobalPost

Scotthad asked earlier: Erik, you chronicled a number of obstacles to
engagement, but are there places on the web where western users are or  could interact more directly with the next billion?

12:05

Erik-German

Probably one of the best places is a site called Global Voices.

12:06

Erik-German

It was founded by one of the people I spoke with for this story,

12:06

Erik-German

Ethan Zuckerman.

12:06

Erik-German

It's a pretty amazing service that translates and aggregates blogs from around the world.

12:06

GlobalPost

Why would it matter to anyone living in the United States that this is going on?

12:06

Scott

I'm back, thanks.

12:07

Erik-German

Welcome back.

12:07

Erik-German

As for the next question, why this matters to Americans.

12:07

GlobalPost

Here's the Global Voices site for those interested: http://globalvoicesonline.org/

12:07

Erik-German

Maybe there are a lot of Americans, Europeans etc. for whom this doesn't matter.

12:08

Erik-German

But if you're involved in any kind of business that has a presence on line...

12:08

Erik-German

This is going to be a really, really big deal.

12:08

Erik-German

These economies will be where all the new customers are.

12:09

GlobalPost

Are there specific types of businesses that will be looking to profit from these new consumers?

12:10

Erik-German

Probably the kinds of businesses that can sell stuff that's deliverable online.

12:10

Erik-German

I'm thinking of downloadable software, music, movies, other media.

12:10

Erik-German

I'm sure bricks and mortar stuff could come later...

12:11

Erik-German

But for these online media companies,

12:11

Erik-German

it's kind of like they sell water.

12:11

Erik-German

And suddenly a billion more people have faucets.

12:11

Scott

The web experience is dramatically different when handled via mobile
devices as opposed to PCs. What are some implications of that?

12:12

Erik-German

There's probably a bunch I'm not even anticipating but a few immediately come to mind...

12:12

Erik-German

first, it's going to mean that applications that are simple, less image-intensive will have a lot of priority.

12:13

Erik-German

On your mobile, Facebook doesn't really work super well. which is why you get facebook zero, which is a stripped-down version of the site.

12:13

Erik-German

But more broadly, it's going to mean returning to a media model that's a lot older than the internet.

12:14

Erik-German

when you access the 'net on a mobile device, you're back to the older broadcast model of media access.

12:14

Erik-German

there's some central spot, owned by a big company, where the media's coming from.

12:14

TheGoldwatcher

has the chat started?

12:15

Erik-German

So that kind of centralization could have a lot of implications, in terms
of how people pay for service, how they access information on line,

12:15

Erik-German

and how authorities might try to control what's seen on line.

12:15

GP-ChatHost

Just a note to the audience, this chat is unmoderated, meaning that if you have a question for Erik, you can chirp in anytime!

12:16

GlobalPost

We were talking before about this new class of consumers

12:16

milesahead

what types of web content are most popular in Brazil, Erik, aside from social media?

12:16

Erik-German

yep.

12:16

GlobalPost

Besides people who want to try and make money, why should anyone else care about the existence of this new online population?

12:16

GlobalPost

Go ahead and answer milesahead

12:16

Scott

Why do mobile devices connote more centralized media origins? (sorry if I'm being dense)

12:16

Erik-German

I'll get to that in one second, Scott.

12:16

Erik-German

As for social media in Brazil.

12:17

Erik-German

Or other web content, rather.

12:17

Erik-German

Brazil seems to be pretty far ahead in terms of twitter use, as well as Youtube.

12:17

Ron

Are there countries that exert a level of control that is surprising;
either greater control than expected or greater freedom than expected?

12:17

Erik-German

The percentage of internet users here who have accounts on Twitter and Youtube rivals the percentages in the US>

12:18

Erik-German

I'll go back to Scott, then Ron.

12:18

milesahead

Thanks, Erik.

12:18

Erik-German

Mobile devices receive their signal from cell phone towers.

12:19

Erik-German

And the marginal cost of installing towers is a lot higher than the cost of selling a broadband connection.

12:19

Erik-German

So mobile signals tend to be delivered by very big telecommunication companies.

12:20

Erik-German

It becomes easier to control the 'net, because there are fewer choke points for the content to come through.

12:20

Erik-German

as for Ron's question: "Are there countries that exert a level of control that is  surprising; either greater control than expected or greater freedom than expected?"

12:20

MinnieM

Back to the question of "besides those who want to make money" can you talk  about the impact on quality of life--access to news, information,
education, family, friends?

12:21

Erik-German

Probably the most-controlled country is China.

12:21

MinnieM

it would have to be huge

12:21

Erik-German

I heard, but haven't verified, that Vietnam actually created a state-run
social media site so as to better control activity in that space.

12:21

Erik-German

As for the most open countries, I'm not sure.

12:21

Erik-German

This is just a guess.

12:22

Erik-German

but judging from the amount of email scammery that comes from Nigeria, I'd put them on the list.

12:22

Erik-German

As for MinnieM's question.

12:23

Erik-German

I think there are a bunch of implications of the new billion for non-business people.

12:23

Erik-German

First of all, it's going to change what we're talking about when we talk about the internet.

12:24

Erik-German

the internet as you know it will still exist.

12:24

Erik-German

but it's going to be just one tiny thing in the midst of something immense.

12:24

Erik-German

It's kind of like the old internet is the solar system, and we suddenly discovered we're in the midst of a much bigger galaxy.

12:25

Erik-German

and even if you don't care about that, there are reasons to pay attention.

12:25

Erik-German

One of the most interesting things the experts said about this whole thing came from Ethan Zuckerman, the Global Voices founder.

12:25

Erik-German

he pointed out that this new group of users represents something new for the planet.

12:25

Erik-German

a single group of people, with some level of shared education,

12:26

Erik-German

a certain extent of shared economic development,

12:26

Erik-German

and some degree of shared consciousness.

12:26

Erik-German

They're educate people, with some money, who regularly go to the same place to learn about their world.

12:26

Erik-German

Zuckerman described this group as "a proxy for the global middle class"

12:27

Erik-German

If this group can begin to communicate with itself,

12:27

Erik-German

come to see itself as a group with shared interests,

12:28

ScottR

Will there be a transcript of this chat? I just got booted and couldn't get back in for a few minutes.

12:28

Erik-German

Serious
global problems that are really hard to solve without broad
participation -- climate change, for example -- could become much more
managable.

12:28

Erik-German

That's the view of the optimists, anyway.

12:28

GlobalPost

Any last questions before we wrap up?

12:28

Ron

Do you believe the "shared interests" model will develop, or a "polarized
interests" model will develop. The shared info will be there, but will
people gravitate to those who have the same interests?

12:28

GP-ChatHost

To answer ScottR's question: yes there will be a complete transcript posted on the GlobalPostmembership site

12:29

Erik-German

I really don't know, Ron.

12:29

Erik-German

I would like to be optimistic.

12:31

Erik-German

The first step would probably be for the group to start accessing the same  wealth of information about the world rather than just updating their  Facebook status..

12:32

GlobalPost

We're about to wrap up here

12:33

Ron

I like to remain optimistic as well, but I have some large concerns. I am
amazed how much people focus on just updating their Facebook status.

12:33

ScottR

One can hope...but I remember when the wealth of online info was going to  make us smarter. Instead, Americans are seeking out only that info that  reinforces their current worldview. Hope others can do a better job.

12:33

ScottR

Thanks Erik.

12:33

Ron

Thank you, Erik.

12:33

MinnieM

Love this topic, thanks Erik

12:33

Erik-German

Thanks to everyone who took the time to join us!

12:33

GlobalPost

Thanks everyone!

12:34

GlobalPost

Please check the Membership website for info on our upcoming chats and to suggest stories for GlobalPostto cover.

12:34

GlobalPost

Great talking to you all today, and many thanks to Erik

12:34

GlobalPost

And as a final note

12:34

GlobalPost

There is a conference all tomorrow

12:34

GlobalPost

At 11am Eastern time

12:34

GlobalPost

With Patrick Winn, our Bangkok correspondent

12:35

GlobalPost

and KC Ortiz, a photographer who will be joining us from Burma

12:35

GlobalPost

where he's been traveling with Karen rebels

12:35

GlobalPost

Hope to talk to you then!

12:35

GlobalPost

Have a good afternoon

12:36

Net_Snoop

That was great! Thanks GlobalPost