Greetings weary web travelers. We wager you've had a long journey through the annals of cat memes, advertisements and sexy content that is the internet, and we're glad to offer you refuge for the time being.
If you’re ashamed about how long you’ve been browsing today, we assure you we’ve been here longer. It takes a raging internet junkie to meet the challenge of feeding the hoard’s internet addiction, someone who is content scouring the web’s unholy corridors 9-5 for information worth sharing. Someone so deeply in denial about their addiction they’re convinced it can lead to personal growth if nourished properly. We, the people who bring you the fascinating information you stumble across online, are so hopelessly consumed by the web’s instant access to information that our only solace is that we might be revelling in disturbing serial killer stories, Disney scandals, and the size of celebrity butts with other addicts like yourselves.
Some consider the internet an essential utility of modern life like water and electricity. Maybe we’re not quite that dependent yet, but could technological channels one day be the only way humankind accesses information? Why use your brain to retrieve that personal “elementary school science” file you locked away in the 7th grade when you can just pluck it from the ubiquitous internet ether at the same speed, or let’s face it, much faster? As science fiction-esque as that sounds, most of us probably couldn’t think up a poignant explanation of why the sky looks blue faster than we could Google one.
So maybe it’s not such an exaggeration after all. With this list of 2014’s most internet addicted countries, feel free to celebrate the miracle of universal connectivity (or mourn the imminent loss of subjective knowledge and usher in the new age of robosapien) and endless pictures of cute kittens.
The following 10 countries are listed by percentage of the population that has used the internet in the last year, as sourced from the International Telecommunications Union. Rankings compiled by the 2014 Social Progress Index.
10 Switzerland: 85.2% of population
A 2012 Google study found Switzerland has among the fastest internet connections in the world, and while you’d think older generations have been slow to embrace it as an essential skill of modern life, these figures suggest otherwise. Nearly a third of the Swiss population is over 55 yet only 15% of the country hasn’t used the web in the last year. Considering that rate is 10% higher than just four years ago, Switzerland may be totally plugged in within a decade or two.
9 Canada: 86.8% of population
Canadian internet addicts suffer the agonizingly First World problem of having some of the worst connections in the developed world. A recent Net Index ranked Canada’s upload speed at 5.67 Mbps, far below the global average of 7.6 Mbps, and while some regions do have much faster access available, the country’s service providers (all two of them) offer exceptionally uncompetitive rates. Many believe Canada’s web services are actually hamstrung by a sort of duopoly, which could be a harsh reality to 86.8% of the population who would appear to be paying more for less.
8 United Kingdom: 87% of population
The UK was one of the first countries to develop a modern web infrastructure, and the .uk country code itself has been active since the mid-80s. As you can imagine, then, citizens have had plenty of time to get outright addicted to browsing. Unlike Canada, the broadband service market in the UK is said to uphold strong competition thanks to regulatory measures that provide competing providers equal access to better connectivity. But there’s also a murkier side to the country’s online habits: The UK's Internet Watch Foundation — a body tasked with the takedown of illegal web content — has made some questionable censorship calls in the past, calling the future of net neutrality in the nation into question.
7 New Zealand: 89.5% of population
It seems New Zealand has gotten a little self-conscience about having the 46th highest download speed in the world. The government currently funds a huge web initiative to bring fibre internet to 75% of the population by the end of the decade, which could see their speeds increasing by up to ten times. They also plan to take broadband to virtually all rural users and reach a connectivity rate of 97.8% by 2019, adding millions of new addicts to the already considerable hoard.
6 Finland: 91% of population
Like the UK, Finland was one of the first countries to develop a comprehensive web infrastructure and establish their own country code, .fi. Finnish policy makers have long kept web access a priority issue, as the first country to declare not just broadband access, but fast broadband access a human right in 2009. Telecom companies have since been required by law to provide all 5.2 million citizens with a connection running at, at least, 1 megabit per second. Today 91% of the population uses the web, and the country still pushes ahead aiming for 100 megabits per second for all citizens by 2015.
5 Denmark: 93% of population
Google’s 2012 study found Denmark has the sixth fastest desktop internet speed tied with Switzerland, and the second best mobile speed in the world behind South Korea. In a country with 93% of the population online, internet censorship has become a growing issue concerned with explicit material featuring children, drug sales, unlicensed online gambling, and, perhaps less unanimously concerning, file-sharing websites like The Pirate Bay.
4 Netherlands: 93% of population
With an average speed of 3.3 seconds per webpage, the Netherlands boasts the fastest desktop internet speeds among the internet-addicted countries. After the country’s 2010 initiatives, the availability of fibre internet exploded from around 700,000 homes to over 7 million, across more than half the country’s municipalities. Moreover, as the second (and first Western) country in the world to legislate network neutrality (which is currently seriously threatened in the US), the Netherlands has become exemplary of countries with progressive web policies.
3 Sweden: 94% of population
94% of Swedish residents currently access the web, with desktop and mobile speeds ranking 8th and 5th in the world respectively. Sweden remains renowned for its free and uncensored internet access, hence serving as the home base for hugely influential and polarising torrent site The Pirate Bay for a time. However, recent anti-piracy measures led Swedish police to arrest Peter Sunde — an Interpol-wanted co-founder of the file-sharing giant — last month on copyright violations. The country’s tolerance for file-sharing seems challenged by Sunde’s $6.9 million in charges and a jail sentence, though his website — a beacon of web freedom for many — lives on through a different organization in a different country.
2 Norway: 95% of population
In 1971, via satellite connection to the US’ ARPANET defense project and progenitor of the modern World Wide Web, Norway was the very first non-English speaking country online. As you'd probably expect, today the country ranks among the top 10 desktop and mobile internet speeds globally. Thanks to the dissemination of fibre-optic broadband, there are now remote communities here that lack running water in near-Arctic climates, yet enjoy some of the fastest internet connections in the world. Only 5% of the Norwegian population remains unconnected.
1 Iceland: 96.2% of population
Iceland doesn’t have one of the fastest desktop internet speeds in the world, and it doesn’t have one of the fastest mobile speeds in the world. But the best portrait of humanity’s web future lies in this frigid geographically remote country. The reason isn't just that 96.2% of Icelanders access the web, but that all of them use some of the cheapest and most renewable energy sources in the world to do so. In a future of total connectivity and gargantuan data centers which consume overwhelming amounts of electricity, Iceland promises to be a major hub of international web traffic, as well as an icon of universal and sustainable access.