Happy Birthday, Internet!

Happy Birthday, Internet!


Happy 47th birthday, Internet! The Internet was born on November 21, 1969, almost 150 years after the industrial revolution that ended somewhere between 1920 and 1940. The Internet is the all-pervasive network of networks of computing devices in the world. Also known as the World Wide Web, the Net, and the Web, it has changed the way people live, just like the industrial revolution.

It all started when at 10:30 pm on October 29, 1969 a University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) student programmer, Charles S. Kline, sent the first message from an SDS Sigma 8 computer at university’s Boelter Hall to an SDS 940 computer in the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) using the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). The message text was “login,” but only the ‘l’ and ‘o’ characters were transmitted before the system crashed. The first permanent link between these two computers was established on November 21, 1969. By December 5, 1969 two more computers had been added to it, one each at the University of California Santa Barbra and the University of Utah. Tim Berners-Lee at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, created the first website on August 6, 1991 using his newly proposed set of rules for creating and using client-server software.

Today, the Internet has around 3.68 billion users. In other words, more than 50% of world population has access to the Internet: 89% in North America, 73.9% in Europe, and 45.6% in Asia. The number of Internet users worldwide has been increasing by one billion every five years since 2005. Among the countries with population of 35 million or more, Canada has the highest Internet penetration of 93.3%. More than 88.6% of 323 million people in the US have access to the Internet and the whole of Antarctica’s 2700 population has access to the Internet. Over 52.3% of China’s 1.37 billion and over 36.5% of India’s 1.26 billion population can access the Internet. Among the 35 countries in Asia, Pakistan has the third lowest Internet penetration with only 17.8% of its people having access to the Internet. Only Turkmenistan (15%) and Afghanistan (12%) have lower Internet penetration than Pakistan.

Our lifestyle and the world economy have become critically dependent on the Internet. Here are some daily statistics indicating our dependence on the Internet: over 1.77 billion Facebook active users, over 215 billion email messages, around half a billion Google+ active users, over 300 million Twitter active users and over a quarter billion tweets, around 5 billion videos viewed on Youtube, around 100 million Skype calls, over 25 million photos uploaded on Instagram, over 40 million posts on Tumblr, and around 2 billion Google searches. Online shopping and online banking have already gripped our lives. The number of online shoppers is about 70% of the Internet users, mostly using smartphones. Combine that with the fact that the sale of smart phones has become over 13 times the sale of computers and about 7 times the sale of tablets, and one can imagine the impact of the Internet on the future world economy. The impact of the Internet on our lives will become even more profound with the growth of “Internet of Things.”

For Pakistan to move forward and considerably increase its $2.8 billion IT revenue that is mostly through export of IT products, services, and e-lancing, it needs to focus on increasing its Internet penetration. Certainly, more local services too need to be brought to the Internet and key business processes in public and private entities must be automated in order to reap full benefits of the Internet and advances in IT. Pakistan’s teledensity, mostly through mobile phones, is over 71%. With smartphone costs becoming one tenth of the minimum monthly wages in the country, the IT revenue growing at 30-40% annually, and the 3G and 4G technologies in place, it is estimated that the IT revenue that is only 1.03% of country’s GDP presently can become about 5% with over 60% of its population using the Internet. However, it can only happen through increase in literacy rate and cheaper Internet.