Largest offline populations: India tops list, Pakistan fourth, says World Bank report

Published: January 15, 2016



Pakistan is among the five least connected countries, revealed a World Bank study, which said that internet remains unavailable, inaccessible, and unaffordable to a majority of the world population.

Titled ‘Digital Dividends’, the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 found that there were 3.2 billion internet users globally against a total population of 7.4 billion, which leaves 57% of the world unconnected. Worse still, Pakistan is far below the global average as 165 million people or 83% of the population (200 million) were found to be offline in the country.

Internet growth slows; most people still offline: UN

India tops the list of the world’s offline populations, followed by China and Indonesia while Pakistan ranks fourth, one place above Bangladesh. While the numbers used to rank countries are absolute, it reflects the total population that is still offline.

“In many instances, digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery,” the report says. However, the broader development benefits of these technologies have fallen short of expectations, the report remarked regarding digital dividends.

With its cellular teledensity standing at 65%, more than half of Pakistan’s population has access to mobile phones, but the country’s internet penetration still remains in the 12% range – little wonder why the report puts Pakistan among other South Asian and Sub-Saharan African nations that have the lowest internet adoption rate, between 0 and 19%.


“There was the hope that technology would provide additional incentive to make massive improvement. Unfortunately, this is where we actually see the biggest disappointment,” US News and World report said on its website, quoting Deepak Mishra, co-author of the report. “We were expecting much more benefit than what we found.”

An offline public panics

Referring to the report, the American publication further said the advent of internet and growth of mobile technology did not result in citizen empowerment or government accountability. “Consistent, organised access to basic services like a functioning energy grid, trash collection, filing taxes and voting, which are frequently lacking in developing countries, have not been affected.”

Quoting Mishra, the news website said digital dividends or positive outcomes of the spread of technology were lacking when it came their impact on people’s ability to influence their governments’ actions or policies. Technology, it said, didn’t solve two of the most difficult governance problems: how to improve service provider management and how to increase citizen’s voice.

“A significant gap remains between technology and institutions, and where public sector accountability is low, digital technologies often help control rather than empower citizens,” the report finds. “These trends persist, not because of digital technologies, but in spite of them.”

Fiscal year 2015: Internet subscriptions up a whopping 344%

The World Bank report also found that “technology is likely to boost the public’s ability to effect change if a government is already responsive to citizen complaints”.

Another area that fell short of expectations was access to jobs and higher economic growth, the report said.

The number of internet users has tripled since 2005, the report found but only 31% of people in developing countries had access to the internet in 2014 compared to 80% in high-income countries. Only 15% of people in the world can afford access to broadband Internet and there are significant adoption gaps for those living in rural areas, it said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • optimist
    Jan 15, 2016 - 4:19AM

    Government of Pakistan should provide free Internet in areas that are least connected. We cannot be happy just because we are better off than India! We should have our own benchmark. Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Jan 15, 2016 - 7:04AM

    The survey that determines the number of Internet users is totally flawed. It estimated the number of users equal to the number of internet connections. This assumption is totally false. For example in my family alone we are 4 family members and we use one broadband connection for the entire home. Same is the case with other families.
    So the internet density figure based on the number of connections can never be true. If you add the figure that one internet connection has the access to multiple amount of people then our figure will double or even quadruple. Recommend

  • Thora Bora
    Jan 15, 2016 - 8:53AM

    It is very pity that many areas of Pakistan specially the remote areas are without 3G and 4G network. Even some region without any communication source….very pity.Recommend

  • Sam
    Jan 15, 2016 - 9:28AM

    @optimist….. Shouldn’t we First provide quality education to people? there is no Pakistani academic institute in Asia’s top 100….while India has 9 and Bangladesh has 1Recommend

  • sgrr
    Jan 15, 2016 - 9:49AM

    In Pakistan our telcos are minting money from the masses, as the Facebook offered free internet access to use some social media apps through these telcos, but instead of providing these services free of cost to masses, bundled it with their own packages, which is unfair, and FB should play its role in it. In addition, the PTCL is required to rationalize its rate of broadband and also the quality of service so that the masses can access internet properly.Recommend

  • Vicky
    Jan 15, 2016 - 10:14AM

    Internet users in South Asia
    China internet users-668,110,314, Percentage-48.80%, Rank-1
    India internet users- 402,000,000, Percentage-33.22%, Rank-2
    Pakistan internet users-35,063,037, Percentage -18.40%, Rank-19
    Nepal internet users-10,690,000, Percentage-40.30% Rank-41
    Bangladesh internet users-10,637,566, Percentage-6.50% , Rank-42Recommend

  • Naveed
    Jan 15, 2016 - 10:23AM

    @optimist….what’s the benefit of giving free internet , when there is no electricity, only load shedding …
    we stand at 34 position while India is at 3rd position in electricity generation …so shouldn’t we first concentrate on ending load sheddingRecommend

  • Hilmi
    Jan 15, 2016 - 10:35AM

    @Malik Saab:
    The same methodology is used for every country in the world. So they are consistent and comparing apples to apples.

    Pakistanis are way behind in IT because the citizens are averse to change and they actually don’t like technology. For religious reasons they think it is harmful. There is a weird superiority + inferiority complex they have going on where they are exceptional and technology’s benefits do not apply to them and at the same time they consider the majority of the population too uneducated to take advantage of technology.

    The government doesn’t like it because it means they have less control over the population.

    Overall the country is falling way behind even our smaller neighbouring countries.Recommend

  • SayeeBaba
    Jan 15, 2016 - 12:34PM

    whatever pakistan does it has very dull future… The country who service user rather provider, who is importer rather exporter, with dumbest education system.. Cant survive for long…What if we connect whole nation,, they will waste time and resources on social media and in adult searches….!!Recommend

  • Jan 15, 2016 - 1:42PM

    Internet is least of a problem for Asia. Clean drinking water, health, education, security, electricity etc come first. Recommend

  • Human
    Jan 15, 2016 - 2:43PM

    its easy to criticize …I bet ur no better Recommend

  • GKA
    Jan 15, 2016 - 3:44PM

    If India is number one on offline, it is number 2 on online. Glass half empty or half fullRecommend

  • brar
    Jan 15, 2016 - 6:16PM

    @Malik Saab: Perhaps you are right in my family of six four adults and two children below 8 years , we have broad band connection with wi fi modem, router and three of us use inter net.Recommend

  • brar
    Jan 15, 2016 - 6:23PM

    The poor needs roti, kapda aur makan not internet.Recommend

  • optimist
    Jan 15, 2016 - 6:43PM

    Why everyone is so negative in Pakistan?
    Internet has become more important for education than education alone. Internet provides very good tracking facilities and this will help police catch criminals. More criminals are being tracked through mobile phones/internet than witnesses.
    Free internet will bring people together. Give them ideas to do things in their villages. Be more active!
    @ Naveed,
    We don’t need to compare ourselves with electricity generation with India because of its popluation. We were producing more electricity (1500 MW extra) than we needed till Army (Gen Musharraf) came and stopped that. Till year 2001, India, via Wolrd bank, was asking to buy our spare electricity but Pakistan was linking it with Kashimir (mistake!). I never saw this in Pakistani media as a positive thing but when we got into deficit, the typical Pakistan negative (Sayaapa!) started. Recommend

  • optimist
    Jan 15, 2016 - 7:45PM

    @ Vicky

    Stop playing with figures.
    Look at percentage of population online. I bet Pakistan was ahead of India last time I checked!!Recommend

  • dude
    Jan 15, 2016 - 9:16PM

    where did you check? 2009 datas?Recommend

  • Saad
    Jan 15, 2016 - 9:51PM

    @optimist: Are you willing to pay extra taxes to provide free internet access? Didn’t think so. Entitlement is a dangerous thing.Recommend

  • Naresh
    Jan 16, 2016 - 1:15AM

    @optimist: Government of Pakistan should provide free Internet in areas that are least connected. We cannot be happy just because we are better off than India! We should have our own benchmark.
    You are an Optimist – you are. Well Pakistan has 165 Million whereas in India they have 1064 Million i.e 1.064 BILLION and you say that Pakistanis are better off than India! Wow!! WOW!!!
    KEEP IT UP.Recommend

  • optimist
    Jan 16, 2016 - 5:36AM

    @ Saad

    Yes, there should be more taxes! Money has to come from somewhere!!!Recommend

  • Sane Khan
    Jan 16, 2016 - 5:54AM

    @ Sam,
    Ok, stop complaining, and study there.Recommend

  • Rahul
    Jan 16, 2016 - 8:33AM

    What an idea sir jiRecommend

  • Ahtsham Abbasi
    Jan 16, 2016 - 11:49AM

    If every one had access to internet in Pakistan, the public would get awareness..
    Governments don’t want that to happen, now do they?Recommend

  • zorkor
    Feb 2, 2016 - 1:29PM

    This is a really good step. Ignore the negative thinkers here. Any service which will help the citizens and save them time is welcomed. Also all government services should be digitized and processed electronically, this includes passport, ID Card renewal and delivered right at their door steps.Recommend

  • np
    May 10, 2016 - 8:05PM

    @optimist: He has provided population online. It is 33% for India and 18$ for Pakistan. His numbers can be derived from this article as well.Recommend

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