I predict that in the next twenty years, global satellite internet systems will enable the majority of the worldwide population to access high-speed internet and become active participants in the global economy. While the developed world is accustomed to high-speed internet access, only 48% of the world population has used the internet in the last 3 months. The disparities are significant: 81% of the EU population is using the internet, compared to only 22% in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank, 2017). Over half of the global population is excluded from the social, political, educational, and economic benefits that the internet has to offer. Similar to how the creation of the worldwide web paved the way for rapid economic and social growth in a new information age, worldwide internet access will allow virtually anyone to reap the benefits of globalization and dramatically alter the global economic structure.
In May, SpaceX launched its first set of Starlink satellites, a new project aimed at providing global high-speed internet through a massive network of satellites. By 2027, SpaceX plans to have 12,000 Starlink satellites in operation (Oberhaus, 2019). SpaceX is just one of the few companies launching satellites in the hopes of dominating a global internet provider market. This industry competition, coupled with growing interests and investments in developing nations, will drive the growth of a global high-speed network.
Satellite-based internet, in the short-term, will expand international communication and remove barriers to foreign investment and entrepreneurship. As mobile phone prices decrease and adoption in developing nations increases, more individuals will be able to use their phones to connect to the internet to communicate regardless of geography, vocalize against political and social oppression, receive an education, and discover new economic opportunities. The internet infrastructure will also enable corporations to decrease foreign investment risks and costs. Once internet access is truly worldwide, I expect that developing nations will rapidly grow their economies, socio-political environments will shift, and more diverse products, services, and firms will be available.
“Individuals Using the Internet (% of Population).” The World Bank Data, The World Bank, 2017, data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS.
Oberhaus, Daniel. “SPACEX IS BANKING ON SATELLITE INTERNET. MAYBE IT SHOULDN’T.” Wired, 15 May 2019, www.wired.com/story/spacex-starlink-satellite-internet/.