It would be correct to note that Internet penetration in Asia-Pacific region is among the lowest in the world.
In 2014, perhaps a third of the region’s people use the Internet, compared to about 26 percent in the Middle East and Africa, for example.
In Latin America, Internet usage is up to 54 percent.
But the rate of change is where observers seem to have disparate expectations. Where things stand is not where the uncertainty lies.
Researchers at eMarketer (News - Alert), for example, believe that by 2018, Internet use in Asia and the Pacific will climb to just about 41 percent, while adoption in Africa and the Middle East will have grown to about 31 percent.
By 2018, “no major shifts are expected,” eMarketer contends. Since most observers believe smartphones will drive Internet use, rates of smartphone adoption are viewed as key. And in that regard, eMarketer also believes progress in Asia will be incremental.
Though more than one-third of Asia-Pacific residents will have a smartphone by 2018, that will leave them below the worldwide average and still in second-to-last place, eMarketer says.
In other words, “by the end of our forecast period, the situation won’t be much different,” eMarketer predicts.
The International Telecommunication Union, on the other hand, notes that mobile Internet access in Africa grew by an order of magnitude between 2010 and 2014 alone.
Mobile Internet adoption is growing at about 16 percent annually, in Asia. At those rates, adoption doubles in less than five years. That implies 66 percent Internet adoption by about 2019.
In 2014, in developed nations, Internet adoption is about 78 percent, according to the ITU.
The point is that “where we are” is not the question. The big question is “what comes next?” How fast will Internet adoption happen, on the backs of mobile Internet adoption?
At least for now, opinions are widely divergent. Analysts at eMarketer see only incremental growth. Researchers working for the ITU think change will be exponential.