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The Global Archipelago of Internet Disconnection

By Guest Writer on May 6, 2016


For many people around the world, Internet access is an essential part of everyday economic, social and political activities (cf. Graham & Dutton, 2014). Yet access to the Internet is, and has always been, geographically concentrated (Graham, Hale, & Stephens, 20122011). As such, it is important to focus on the people and places that are largely left out of global digital connectivity.

The visualization featured here looks at these areas in terms of Internet penetration (i.e., the share of their population that have ‘used the Internet (from any location) in the last 12 months’ where ‘Internet can be used via a computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant, games machine, digital TV etc.’ (United Nations (UN), 2015).

The Archipelago of Disconnection highlights all territories that either have Internet penetration below 10% (coloured yellow) or for which no data from the World Bank exist (orange). A lack of data can exist for several reasons, for example, some of these territories are statistically grouped together with bigger entities (e.g., likely the United States Minor Outlying Islands with the United States), no data have been collected or inferred, or the territories lack widespread recognized statehood.

Some of the territories that show up as orange do actually have high levels of Internet penetration in reality (e.g., Cyprus or the Isle of Man). For others, however, we suspect that Internet penetration is indeed low.

The Archipelago of Disconnection ultimately highlights an archipelago of land whose population is mostly cut off from the Internet. This Archipelago of Disconnection has its centre of gravity in Sub-Saharan Africa where 28 countries have Internet penetration rates beneath the 10% threshold we applied.


Among these very poorly connected Sub-Saharan nations there are some very populous countries – the three largest are Ethiopia (with 94 million inhabitants), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (68 million) and Tanzania (49 million) – with an overall Internet penetration of a mere 2.6%.

As the Internet becomes ever more embedded into global economic flows (Malecki & Morisset, 2011), to the ways that urban spaces are inhabited (Graham, 2013), and to myriad other facets of everyday life, those living in the Archipelago of Disconnection are thus largely barred from participating in the cultural, educational, political and economic activities that it affords.

Straumann, R. K., Graham, M. 2016. Who isn’t online? Mapping the ‘Archipelago of Disconnection.’ Regional Studies, Regional Science. 3(1) 96-98.

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One Comment to “The Global Archipelago of Internet Disconnection”

  1. Sam Lanfranco says:

    The map has errors and omissions. The designation for Myanmar is out of date. It went from near zero access in 2012 to over 50% access late in 2015. Also, Cuba is not identified as a low access country. Cuba has limited access and low use. Check the ITU data.