The digital society in 2023: how we surf the Internet?

Actualidad April 28, 2023

A new report related to the virtual world has put the spotlight on several worrying and/or striking aspects. This is the report ‘Digital Society in Spain 2023’, published by the Telefónica Foundation this week.

In this Befree blog post we wanted to summarise several of its conclusions. From the growth of the Internet to how this growth has been, to its unequal distribution around the world.

More connected, but still with notable differences

The presentation of the report began with some data on the current state of global connectivity. To begin with, 66% of the global population are now regular Internet users, an increase of 4% over the previous year’s figure. However, within the good news there is a but: while in the more developed regions the figure is magnificent (90% of the European population uses the Internet), in the less developed regions it is not so much the order of the day (only 34% of the African population surfs the Internet).

The increase in broadband use is also notable at the global level. It has increased by 30%. “I can’t think of few sectors that have seen such growth,” said Pablo Gonzalo, Global Head of Digital Culture at the Foundation during the presentation. However, once again, there are significant gaps. While almost half of this growth took place in Asia Pacific (48%), only 3% was located in Africa.

Another striking fact was highlighted. Six digital platforms alone generate more than half of global internet traffic. These platforms, in order of numbers, are Alphabet (Google’s parent company, 21%), Meta (15%), Netflix (9%), Apple (4%), Amazon (4%) and Microsoft (3%).

What life is like in a digital society

The report also looks at somewhat kinder points, for example how we spend our time online. “It is increasingly difficult to distinguish our digital life from our analogue life,” laughed Gonzalo. Here, although several others could be mentioned, the two most prominent areas are online entertainment and e-commerce.

Regarding the former, it is no secret that a large part of our entertainment habits have been digital for years. Online music platforms (75% of users use them) have banished CDs and vinyl, however much purists and nostalgics continue their rebellion. Netflix, HBO and Filmin (65% of the population subscribe to them) are installed on our smart TVs, which no longer have room for Blu-ray players.

Finally, e-commerce, although the report highlights that it has stagnated compared to forecasts, remains strong. More than half of Internet users (55%) make purchases online. Although the increase has slowed down, the convenience of this method (no time or travel restrictions) and the fact that it is not restricted to the Internet have made it possible to make purchases online.

Artificial Intelligence and its evolution

Finally, the report also addresses the issue of artificial intelligence. In the wake of the discovery and meteoric rise of ChatGPT, the concept of AI has become embedded in our lives. Data from the study shows that current AI models have increased their learning capacity by a factor of 100 million times faster in the last decade.

However, the Telefónica Foundation also puts the spotlight on the problems and issues that AI brings to the table. Indeed, according to a recent IBM survey of decision-makers in large and small companies developing AI models, the ways forward are clear.

For example, 70% of respondents do not monitor for model variations that may indicate potential biases. In addition, 60% of respondents also fail to monitor the data that underpins their models, and the same percentage say they are not sure they can explain the decisions that AI makes.

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