North American and European internet users now make up only about a quarter of the world’s users. Furthermore, while countries like the US and the UK have almost reached internet saturation, Africa, Asia and Latin America are home to billions more people who will come online in the next few years.
The networking of humanity is no longer confined to a few economically prosperous parts of the world. For the first time in history, we are creating a truly global and accessible communication network. However, while access to the internet is quickly being democratised, research by us for the Geonet project at the Oxford Internet Institute shows that web content remains heavily skewed towards rich, western countries.
All of sub-Saharan Africa combined, despite having 10% of the world’s internet users, registers only 0.7% of the world’s domain names (a good proxy for how much web content is produced) and 0.5% of the world’s commits (or revisions) to GitHub (a proxy for how much computer code people write and share in a place). France alone produces 5.7 times more GitHub commits and 3.4 times more domain registrations than all the sub-Saharan countries.
The skewed geography and gender of Wikipedia edits is perhaps even more concerning. Research shows that the vast majority of content on Wikipedia written about most African countries is written by (primarily male) editors in Europe or North America. Wikipedia is one of the most used websites in the world and an important data source for countless platforms and services.