The Internet in the Countries in Transition


 The Internet in the Countries in Transition

In this blog post, we will explore the current realities of Internet use in transitioning countries and the future prospects for connectivity.

The Internet has already taken a lead role in helping people connect with one another and find information—especially in developing countries. In China, for example, citizens eager to glimpse uncensored content flock to virtual private networks (VPNs) from America or Europe as a means of bypassing government firewalls. But even with all it has going on, the internet is poised to make an even bigger impact in these regions. It’s quite possible that technological progress—aided by economic transformation and greater political openness—could soon transform social interactions both inside and outside countries like Russia or Turkey.

The potential for the Internet to unleash new ideas and innovations in transitioning countries is already evident in a number of key sectors. For example, in Russia, where an estimated 75% of consumers use the internet every day, it has been used to revive tango clubs across the country, as well as offer similar services that were previously available only with offline interaction. In Turkey, it has helped to establish digital libraries and online archives of literary works.

In Kazakhstan, a group of students at Nazarbayev University have created an online platform where Turkish-speaking students can find linguistic partners without travelling all the way to Istanbul. In the Republic of Moldova, a group of activists has built an online platform that allows citizens to share news and opinions about their governments and get access to information they might not otherwise have available due to censorship.

In general, it is clear that the Internet is already used extensively in countries with high levels of Internet penetration. By 2014, there were many countries where roughly half of all households used the internet at least once per month, including China (91% penetration), Republic of Moldova (59%), Russia (47%), Kazakhstan (41%), and Belarus (38%). And this doesn’t take into account regions like Africa or Latin America, where significant numbers of people still lack access to the internet but are gaining ground quickly.

However, all is not well in this space. In some transitioning countries, internet penetration is still quite low. For instance, this figure was only about 10% in Serbia and less than 1% in Ukraine as of late 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage of people who have never used the Internet totals as much as 80% and 70%, respectively, for residents of Kazakhstan and Russia.

This could be because many people living in transitioning countries are unable to afford access to the internet on their own or don’t have sufficient technical capabilities to make use of it. These barriers have significantly influenced the way in which the internet is used in transitioning countries.

For instance, a 2014 report by the World Bank found that only 12% of social media users in Russia were between the ages of 15 and 29, compared with about 25% in other European countries. This suggests that younger people are more likely to be active users of social networking sites than older ones. Indeed, an interesting report on youth and internet use from 2013 indicates that only 18% of Russian and Ukrainian parents use social media as compared to 39% elsewhere around the globe. The same study also revealed that young people in this region are already using the internet much more actively than their counterparts elsewhere on earth, primarily due to greater accessibility at schools and universities.

These findings indicate that the Internet in this region is drawing on a wide range of users, including the young, as well as those without access to the technology themselves. In fact, this may help to explain why data suggests that the number of netizens has been steadily increasing in transitioning countries since 2000, and while internet penetration rates are unlikely to reach those in some Western countries anytime soon, they are likely to increase considerably over time.

Admittedly, many aspects of these countries’ online lives have yet to develop fully. For example, only about one-third of people living in these countries use social media outside their immediate circle of friends and family.


With the internet becoming more ubiquitous in areas of transitioning countries, the influence of the World Wide Web is likely to grow. Transitioning countries are equally poised to benefit from both economic transformation and greater political openness, which will surely have a major impact on the way their people connect online. This will particularly be true in sectors where younger generations are already taking advantage of new opportunities for communication and interaction (like social media). And this is just one indicator that will hopefully lead to further improvements on a wide range of other fronts as well.

Based on these findings, it’s clear that in transitioning countries there’s already significant potential for sharing information online which has not yet been tapped fully.

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