How the internet has changed our world
Vince Farrugia is a Technology and Security Manager at Deloitte Malta.
This was probably the case some 30 years back, which not too long ago when you consider the changes that have gone by! Children nowadays do not imagine a world without smartphones, Wi-Fi, tablets and social media. So how did the internet change the world?
Probably the most important change was in communication. In the stone ages, long-distance communication was most likely equivalent to yelling at your neighbour. Letters were eventually invented which made the world seem smaller, and in the 20th century, the telephone and fax machines narrowed distances even more. But nowadays, even these technologies are considered ancient. With social media, texting, email and video chat, fax machines are sometimes considered as museum pieces. In social media, most people have a lot of contacts called ‘friends’, but would probably not be able to reel off their actual phone number! Who needs to remember numbers when your smartphone or tablet can store them for you? Looking ahead, traditional mail might very well soon become a thing of the past and will only be used for parcel delivery.
Which leads us to shopping. Traditional shopping is getting less and less popular. Maybe it’s something to do with crowds and people being lazy… but with online shopping, you can search for the product online, compare prices from various retailers, and then make our purchase all from the comfort of your home after business hours. It is no secret that the postal services are being used more and more for such types of deliveries, and less and less for traditional mail delivery. Even personal items like shoes and clothing are being purchased more often online. Gone are the days where people needed to try on the item before buying it. Nowadays, due to efficient return programmes, the average person is more trusting and will opt to buy things online where they might have thought twice in the past.
Research and books
When I used to live with my parents, they had this huge collection of books on the shelf called an Encyclopaedia. Through the internet, one can search instantly about things that one wants to know. Online searches have made us become our own doctors, nutritionists and home improvement gurus. In a few minutes, you can go from knowing nothing to thinking of yourself as being the subject matter expert on certain topics. The only downside to this is that not all articles you might find on the internet are reliable. I remember a time about 10 years ago, where Wikipedia was considered an unreliable source of information according to university lecturers – though a library is still a great place to experience research, even lecturers resort to online research nowadays.
Gone are the days when one needed to set the VCR timer ahead in order to record a favourite TV programme. Nowadays, with all the media streaming available, one can just watch whatever once chooses online and whenever one wishes. You do not even need to be home to watch it, as most portable smartphones, laptops or tablets can stream movies over Wi-Fi or 4G.
Believe it or not, you were required to physically go to your nearest bank branch to check your account balance until only a few years ago. Nowadays, you do not need to queue for long hours on a weekend to get cash or to deposit a cheque. More importantly, your money is available all over the world from any ATM you want within a few clicks and seconds.
Pulling out an atlas before a road trip and having several arguments about directions while on a trip, or waiting in line at an airline ticket office to book flights or hotels is basically a thing of the past. Thanks to GPS, online maps apps and online travel agencies, planning a trip, buying tickets and getting to destinations are just a few clicks or touches away. Also, knowing about your destination before you even start buying tickets is so much easier because of the amount of information readily available on the internet, often with reviews made by other people who have already visited the place you’re going to!
Internet access statistics
Despite all this, the number of users that have access to the internet at least once a year in the world was a staggering lowly 38% in 2015, and those with regular internet access significantly lower. However, studying the demographics indicates that this is increasing rapidly every year.
Internet access means prosperity
The most interesting statistic is that internet access is most available in the more developed countries. For example, the Americas and Europe have a much larger internet access percentage (65% and 75% respectively) than Asia and Africa (32% and 19%). Recently, a study showed that internet access has also a direct positive effect on growth in firms.
Most people think that the internet revolutionised the world in a very positive way. Others think that people have become much lazier and therefore move less, increasing health problems including obesity and heart disease.
Whichever way you look at it, the internet changed the world dramatically within a short span of time, and few would argue against this fact.
For more information, please visit http://www2.deloitte.com/mt