Earlier this month, Google chairman Eric Schmidt posted on his Google+ account claiming the entire world will be online by the year 2020. Schmidt wrote, “For every person online, there are two who are not. By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected.”
Currently, 39 percent of the world’s population has access to the Internet, according to a report by the International Telecommunication Union. That’s about 2.7 billion people who are online. A quick Google search revealed that the world population as of 2011 is 6,973,738,433. That’s a lot of wireless adapters and Ethernet cables.
I don’t doubt Schmidt and the rest of Google can make the worldwide Web truly worldwide, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit skeptical. I can’t help but wonder how it’s even possible to get a connection to everyone, let alone a reliable one.
Let’s be serious: How many times do you hear your friends complaining about their Internet cutting out? Now try and picture someone in a remote village in South America or even a tiny town in Montana trying to get online.
Curtis Grimes, senior computer science major, said the world would need infrastructure that doesn’t exist right now to support an international connection.
“But I guess if you look at how many people have jumped aboard with Facebook in the past seven years, then it seems like a lot could happen in the next seven,” Grimes said.
That’s a great point. Seven years ago, I was still using AOL Instant Messenger and Microsoft Hotmail. All right, so I still use Hotmail, but the point is things online change so quickly it’s almost hard to believe. It’s exciting, and we’re lucky to live in a place that allows for us to experience those changes the moment they occur.
That raises another concern. Does the entire world necessarily need to be online? I find myself asking if this should be our No. 1 goal as a species for the next decade.
Grimes said he doesn’t think an international connection is a priority right now.
“I can’t imagine people in undeveloped countries excited about playing FarmVille and getting into virtual poke wars,” Grimes said.
It doesn’t seem like the most important feat to accomplish. Then again, the arrival of the Internet has sparked many changes in the way we communicate and access information, so maybe it’s not a bad idea after all. This vast sanctuary of information and knowledge we use for tweeting pictures of our dinner and watching Netflix could finally be used for a real purpose. But in all seriousness, technology always surprises us. I still remember the nostalgic ring of a dial-up connection in the back of my mind, and now I’m connected to the Internet without so much as a single wire.
Assuming Google can keep its users connected without having to call ResTech every hour, they might be onto something. I suppose as long as they don’t rely on the Cisco network, maybe soon the whole world will be browsing Imgur and making Spotify playlists.