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As Two Digital Divides Close, A New One Threatens

Five years ago when it was created, the UN Commission for Digital Development stated that “the digital divide continues to be a development divide that must quickly be bridged.” Since then, huge progress has been made in closing the digital divides in the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly telephones and the Internet. A new potential digital divide may be emerging, however, in the adoption of machine-to-machine (M2M) deployment and services, a key element in the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything.

The latest data from the Broadband Commission’s 2015 State of Broadband report launched this week, shows the gap in the adoption of telephones falling rapidly, particularly as mobile telephones spread across the world. In 2005, mobile penetration in the developed world was over three times higher than in developing countries (82% versus 23%). By 2015, this gap has closed significantly with mobile penetration at 121% in developed countries and 92% in developing countries. While larger gaps remain in broadband Internet (mobile and fixed) subscriptions, higher growth rates for both technologies in developing countries point to the same conclusion: overall, developing countries are catching up with developed countries in a range of ICTs.

According to Cisco’s 2015 Visual Networking Index (VNI), we now stand at a clear digital tipping point – by 2019, the number of people connecting to Internet will be 3.9 billion, reaching over 51% of the global population. As over one billion additional people connect to the Internet over the next five years, over 10.2 billion new devices (smartphones, tablets, sensors, etc.) will come online at the same time, growing from 14.2 billion in 2014 to 24.4 billion in 2019; and 10.5 billion of these will be M2M.

This ‘good news’ story, however, masks an emerging digital divide in this next phase of the Internet, which will be characterized by a growing number of connected devices of all kinds. In North America, there were 6.1 networked devices per capita in 2014 with a forecast of 11.6 devices per capita by 2019 (a CAGR of 14% in total devices). In Western Europe, the number will be 8.2 devices per capita by 2019, up from 4.4 devices per capita in 2014 (13% CAGR). However, in Latin America, there were only 2.0 connected devices per capita in 2014, with an expected rise to 2.9 by 2019 (9% CAGR), and in the Middle East/Africa region, growth is expected to be similarly slow growing from only 1.0 connected device per capita in 2014 to 1.4 by 2019 (9% CAGR as well).

The Emerging Digital Divide

The contrast across regions in M2M devices is even more stark. While globally, over 43% of all devices in 2019 will be M2M, advanced regions of the world are ahead of the curve. In the UK, M2M devices will account for 48% of all devices by 2019. In Australia the share will be 54%; the US it will be 58%; Japan 68% and in Korea, 72%. By comparison, in most developing countries the number of M2M devices are still at a nascent level: In India, only 13% of all devices by 2019 will be M2M, across Africa and Middle East, the share will be only 17%, in South Africa it will 22%; Brazil and Mexico will be 32%.

Why does this matter? While developing countries are catching up in basic ICT penetration, this growing gap in connected devices and M2M connections may point to big differences in how societies are utilizing, and benefitting from, the Internet and the next generation of the digital transition. For example, network effects and externalities that multiply the impacts of ICTs require minimum adoption thresholds before those impacts begin to materialize, and the greater the intensity of ICT use, the greater the impacts on economic growth (even beyond saturation levels of penetration).

It is important to recognize the global success in advancing the adoption of ICTs, particularly telephones and the Internet, around the world. Private sector telecom investment supported by smart government policies fostered infrastructure development to the extent that now over 90% of the world’s population is covered by mobile telephone signals.

We must continue the push for greater access and adoption of ICTs among lower-income groups to further accelerate income gains at the base of the economic pyramid. Policy action should focus on preventing and bridging this emerging digital divide in M2M and connected devices, achieved through partnership and private sector investment, enabled by conducive business environments and crafted by pro-innovation and pro-investment government policies. As the 2015 State of Broadband report highlights, more needs to be done to accelerate the adoption of ICTs and total connected devices and close the gaps between developed and developing countries, as well as high-income and low-income populations.

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The History and Future of Internet Traffic

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I remember when 1 Mbps was big bandwidth. And 45 Mbps was unbelievably, outlandishly huge bandwidth. One spring day in 1995, at the headquarters of a large technology company outside of Dallas, there was excited chatter at the proverbial water cooler about the T3 access line that was being installed. A T3 line! Nearly 45 Mbps! Every thing really is bigger in Texas! We wondered what we would do with all that bandwidth, even though there were thousands of us at the location being served. Now, in 2015, the average broadband home has a 25 Mbps connection, and 20% of broadband homes worldwide have T3 speeds or higher, serving just the members of that household. And we now talk about yesterday’s data speeds Read More »

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#CiscoChat Recap: Powering the Internet Transformation: Getting Broadband Where It Needs to Be

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When the “Gigabit City Challenge” was issued in 2013, civic leaders and broadband provider across the country began to rethink how faster broadband speeds could move beyond satisfying consumer demand for streaming and web surfing to fuel economic growth, drive innovative development and develop gigabit communities where innovation labs would drive new business and new industry growth.

The Internet of Everything (IoE) and the devices on it (an estimated 50 billion by 2020) are driving the urgency behind getting these high-capacity, lighting fast networks up to speed. But, questions behind how we prepare our networks Read More »

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Who’s Got (Networking) Talent? Launching the 2014 Global Talent Competitiveness Index Report

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.” – Horace Mann, 1848

Mann, is he right. Education paves the way to opportunity and higher living standards. And today we recognize a technology with a similar power – the Internet. It’s been just twenty years since the spread of the commercial Internet, and evidence of its impact on employment, productivity and social development is all around us. But a major hurdle hinders the extension of the Internet’s benefits to more people: a worldwide shortage of skilled Internet technical (IP) professionals who ensure network connectivity for our homes, businesses, governments and economies.

Today Cisco participated in the launch of the 2014 Global Talent Competitiveness Index report, “Growing Talent Today and Tomorrow,” in Davos, Switzerland. And in Chapter 4 of the report, we specifically detail the shortage in IP networking professionals across 29 countries we most recently analyzed.

The headline: The shortage of skilled IP networking professionals will be at least 1.2 million people in 2015. In some countries, such as Costa Rica, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, there may be over a 45% gap. Even where countries have a relatively low shortage (e.g. Australia and Korea), the gap ranges between 10 to 20%. And in all countries, the networking skills gap is growing – due to increasing connectivity, the Internet of Everything, rising digitization of all business activity, globalization of trade and travel, and economic growth.

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So what can be done to close the Networking skills gap and ensure the benefits, and opportunities, brought about by the Internet continue to spread to more people on the planet?

When it comes down to it, specific programs and targeted policies are needed to expand the total pool of qualified people. More effort is needed to expand the total pool of qualified networking talent by: 1) increasing the number of new Networking employees (graduates); 2) encouraging and enabling mid-career professionals to transition to ICT and Networking; and 3) increasing a country’s total talent by encouraging immigration. The policies and programs created to achieve these results should:

Integrate more technology training into educational curriculum. Expand efforts to increase the number of trained ICT professionals from universities, vocational programs and technical training centers, particularly by integrating elements of computer science (CS) and IP networking into general education curricula at the primary and secondary levels. And ensure that when CS and networking courses are offered, they also are eligible to fulfill graduation credit, as opposed to only being peripheral electives.

Increase mentorship opportunities. Mentoring students provides opportunities to experience and learn about careers in technology related fields. Programs like US2020 aim to match one million STEM mentors with students at youth-serving non-profits. Girls Who Code is another shining example. The program involves summer training for girls in high school centered on project-based computer science education with real-world tech industry exposure.

Reduce limits on the number of temporary and immigrant visas for skilled workers. Current immigration policies directly impact the immediate supply of skilled networking employees. Applications for H-1B visas in the U.S., for example, consistently reach their annual prescribed limit within a week of becoming available.

Implement successful technical training program, particularly through public private partnerships. Tailored training programs can accelerate the number of skilled networking employees that enter the global workforce. Cisco’s own Networking Academy Program prepares students for entry-level ICT jobs through the PPP model. To date, globally it has trained over five million students, 92% of whom obtained a new job and/or further educational opportunity following their graduation from the Academy.

While the presence of the IP networking gap highlights a missed opportunity for countries to reach potential economic growth, with dedicated public policy, specific training programs, and public involvement on the part of governments, citizens and private enterprise, we can solve the talent gap.

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Cisco Wins Best of Show IPv6 Product!

The North American IPv6 Summit is the largest annual IPv6 event in North America, designed to educate about IPv6 and the current state of IPv6 adoption. We were honored to receive industry recognition of the Cisco’s IPv6 leadership and continued innovation with the Best of Show Award of Product and Service for the Cisco Wireless Controller.


As you read about earlier this summer, Wireless Release 8.0 added a cornucopia of features to our wireless offering, many of which are targeted specifically for upcoming technologies, including IPv6. Let’s look back to see how far we’ve come:

Anticipating the growing demand of the next generation IP and eyeing the arrival of World IPv6 day, Cisco released the first support for IPv6 in its’ Wireless LAN Controller (WLC) software version 7.0 in 2011. There has been a steady progression of feature support ever since. Client mobility appeared in version 7.2 a year later in time to celebrate the launch of IPv6 on the global Internet.Then came the release of 7.4 and it’s support of First Hop Security tools, enabling organization’s to go beyond the lab and deploy IPv6 in a safe, secure manner. Read More »

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