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Google exec Eric Schmidt proclaims entire Earth will be online by 2020, but what will it take?

Google executive chairman made a bold prediction on Google+ yesterday, saying that everyone on Earth will be connected by the end of the decade.
April 15, 2013
Eric Schmidt
Where do you see the Earth in terms of Internet connectivity five years from now? If you ask Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt for his opinion, he’ll tell you that in five years, even more people will have access to the Internet one way or another. In fact, Schmidt thinks that every single person on the planet will be online by the end of the decade. This is what he said over Google+ yesterday morning in a widely-talked about post that has since been +1’d over 500 times.

What the Google exec sees is a future where everyone is able to go on the Internet, and probably quite easily, at that. In his Google+ post, he correctly pointed out that “for every person online, there are two who are not.” He then made the bold claim that by the year 2020, “everyone on Earth will be connected.”

There are two ways to look at Schmidt’s statement here in regard to the Earth’s Internet-connected future. First, it could be seen as a sort of pre-announcement for Google’s imminent aggressive expansion in the world ISP market. As one of the biggest Internet-based companies ever, it is in Google’s best interest to ensure that more and more people get the chance to go online. That explains the company’s push for more connected devices in the hands of consumers (i.e. Android smartphones and tablets), as well as its work towards providing better and faster Internet service for everyone (Google Fiber, which is a work in progress).

Schmidt’s statement could also be seen as a type of wishful thinking, if not for himself, then perhaps for everyone else. The Internet is seen by many as the great equalizer, and it truly stands to change the lives of billions of people in radical ways. There’s no telling where Google itself will be by 2020, whether it will be the one to facilitate the major expansion of the Internet or not, but as long as Schmidt’s statement turns out to be true somehow, then it’s a definite win for us all.

But what will it take for the Google chairman’s claim or wish to come true?

Internet usage: A look at the numbers

Internet usage stats
According to information from the Internet World Stats web site, which collects data on Internet usage from around the world, about 34.3% of the Earth’s entire population are able to go online right now. So it’s still quite a ways from the estimated total world population of about 7 billion people.

How will Internet access spread to billions?

If Google intends to help bestow Internet access to everyone on the planet, it’s going to have to do more than just launch its Fiber Internet service in a few states across the U.S.

Also, let’s not forget that some countries, even though they have the necessary budget or infrastructure for it — or at least they could — still simply do not allow their citizens to enjoy full access to the Internet. Places such as China and North Korea come to mind. This means that Google will also have to continually brush up its diplomatic relations. So far, it’s off to a good start.

There’s really a whole host of things that needs to be done in order to fulfill this prophecy. In Schmidt’s mind, we’re all probably in for an Android-powered Internet-based future. But it’s worth noting that many things could happen in the next seven years.

It took Android less than five years to make it to the top of the world smartphone market. Now with a bunch of new smartphone ecosystems on the horizon, there’s no telling what might happen. Will Android even still be around by 2020? What about Google? And what kind of company will it be? Whatever the answer, one can only hope that “Don’t be evil” is not forgotten.