2012 was a big year for mobile and broadband growth, but especially in the realm of technology, it’s easy to forget that China’s rural areas can lag far, far behind cities when it comes to development. So I was interested to read today that over 2012, China boosted its broadband coverage in villages to 88 percent.
Unfortunately, there are a few caveats. “Villages” here is an official government administrative term, like “county” or “city,” so it doesn’t necessarily mean that most little villages have broadband access. And while coverage did grow over 2012, the growth wasn’t nearly as impressive as you might expect; it’s up just a few percentage points from 84 percent at the beginning of the year.
Most importantly, though, “coverage” does not mean “subscription,” and the fact that broadband is available in villages does not mean anyone is actually paying for it. Having visited numerous villages across several Chinese provinces over the course of my time in China, I can assure you that many village homes didn’t even bathrooms, let alone computers with broadband internet subscriptions. While it’s great that villagers can have access to these services, the vast majority cannot afford them and don’t have the education or training to take full advantage of them. It would be great if in addition to expanding infrastructure in 2013, the government also put some time into training people (especially the older generations) on how computers and the internet can help them, and perhaps establish some low-cost internet cafes in rural areas where there aren’t any currently, so that everyone can enjoy the ever-increasing speed of China’s broadband internet.
(Tongxin Xinxi Bao via Sina Tech)