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Photo via Pew Research Center
Photo via Pew Research Center

While we wake up and tap away on our devices in a near-constant state of connectivity, it’s hard to imagine that the Internet is still making its way to some nations.

It’s no secret that tech companies like Facebook with its internet.org project and Google’s Project Loon are aspiring to get everyone online. The Pew Research Center released a study this week looking at emerging and developing nations’ perceptions and opinions of the Internet. And while most people said that “increasing use of the internet has been a good influence in the realms of education, personal relationships and the economy,” they also were “more likely to say that the Internet is a negative rather than a positive influence on morality, and they are divided about its effect on politics.” See the chart below.

Photo via Pew Research Center
Photo via Pew Research Center

While 64 percent said it was great for education, only 29 percent said it was a positive influence on morality and “no country surveyed does a majority say that the internet’s influence on morality is a positive,” according to the study.

The survey of 36,619 people in 32 countries reveals quite a bit. Here are some key highlights:

  • Access and smartphone ownership rates are greatest among well-educated and the young. People who read and speak English are also more likely to have access, especially in richer, more developed countries.
  • The most common activity is socializing and sharing info on “popular culture, such as music, movies and sports,” with a median of 82 percent of those online using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Getting information about politics, health care and government services is next.

    Photo via Pew Research Center
    Photo via Pew Research Center

  • Fewer people go online for more utilitarian activities, like looking for a job (35 percent), shopping (16 percent) or taking online classes (13 percent).
  • The more educated a person is, the more likely they are to say the Internet is a positive influence. Six in 10 with a secondary education or  higher say it’s a good influence on positive relationships, compared to 44 percent with less education.
  • Internet access is still spotty in many of these nations: An average of 44 percent go online occasionally, vs. 87 percent of adults in the States.

Of course, income is a big driver to access. The countries surveyed with greater per-capita incomes report more connectivity:

One of the biggest barriers to online use is the lack of the technology. Smartphones have yet to replace regular mobile phones in many emerging and developing nations — only 24 percent own a cell phone that can access the Internet vs. 58 percent in the U.S. Only 38 percent report having a working computer in their homes, as compared to about 80 percent of homes in the States.

Photo via Pew Research Center
Photo via Pew Research Center

All told, it’s a fascinating look at perceptions, Internet use and our online world. What we do with this data from here — good and bad — will be just as interesting to watch.

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