Are we designing for a static world while hundreds of millions of people are discovering the Internet through mobile devices?

The digital agency We Are Social recently published a report on the use of the Internet, social networks and mobile devices in 24 countries across 5 continents, titled Global Digital Statistics 2014. The stats presented in the study show very interesting data that should make us think. At the end of this post you can find the presentation of the study.

These are the conclusions I have drawn:

Three groups of countries can be distinguished:

  • Group A: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Italy
  • Group B: Poland, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey
  • Group C: Indonesia, Thailand, India, Nigeria

Three key data emerge from the report:

A polarization is observed between countries from A and C Groups regarding Internet penetration, being much greater in group A. Group B countries are in the middle and only the future will determine whether some of them will reach the first group or will countinue at this intermediate stage.

However, in terms of mobile subscriptions, except India and Nigeria, countries that were ahead in percentage of Internet users now occupy intermediate positions and, conversely, countries with medium Internet penetration have the highest mobile penetration rates.

The average number of hours per day spent by users on the Internet through mobile devices is higher in B-C countries than in A countries. Only the USA achieves a 2.4 hours/day, like Brazil.

This data suggest three distinct patterns:

On the one hand, there are countries (Group A) in which the access of users to the Internet and the popularization of PCs were developed in parallel in time. The population of Group A countries discovered the Internet through a PC.

On the other hand, there are countries (Group B) with a low purchasing power which has limited the access of the population to the Internet and PCs. These countries got a late access to the Internet, and when they have finally got it, the most accessible digital device at that time was no longer a PC. The population of Group B countries has discovered the Internet through a mobile device.

Finally, there are countries (Group C) whose population is not yet connected to the Internet massively. It may take long, but the moment in which this happens will determine the device used.

Interestingly, designers and technology firms come mostly from Group A countries. The study of We Are Digital should make us think: Are we designing for a static world while people are discovering the Internet through a mobile device?