Google's Schmidt warns 'Net revolution leaves many behind

World Wide Web not so worldwide, says Google's executive chairman

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt warned that the World Wide Web isn't as worldwide as it needs to be.

Schmidt, speaking in Israel on Tuesday at an annual conference sponsored by President Shimon Peres, said only about 2 billion people, less than a third of the world's population, have Internet access, according to a report from the Associated Press .

''The World Wide Web has yet to live up to its name,'' said Schmidt who was Google's CEO until the spring of 2011. ''Technology does not produce miracles, but connectivity, even in modest amounts, changes lives.''

"No one can argue with Schmidt on the logic here," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "It is a problem that the majority of the population does not have Internet access. It's important to know that this is strongly related to levels of literacy, income and access to food, drinking water and shelter."

Moorhead added that Internet access, or the lack of it, can be directly linked to the gap between the haves and have-nots.

"All things equal, those with the Internet generally have better and faster access to education, jobs, governments, and medical information," he said.

Schmidt also said smartphones could be the answer to increasing Internet access worldwide.

"Smartphones are going to be a critical technology for this issue," added Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "A lot of areas in emerging countries aren't even wired and even if they are, there's frequently one computer connected in an entire town. Pulling cable to a lot of these areas just isn't going to happen so phones will be a critical tool."

Moorhead said to increase access to smartphones and thus the Internet, significant investments will have to be made to reduce feature phone and network costs.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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