According to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center across 32 emerging and developing countries, the Internet was found to have the most positive influence on the spread of education, but the least positive influence over morality.
Overall, an average of 64% across all of the 32 countries involved in the survey reported the Internet having a good influence on education. In addition, 53% said it had a positive influence over their personal relationships, and 52% saw it being positive with regards to the economy.
Participants reported more mixed feelings concerning the Internet’s influence over politics, with 36% saying it is good and 30% saying it is bad.
As for its effects on morality, an average of 42% of participants from emergent and developing nations felt the Internet has been harmful. Only 29% reported feeling the Internet has improved morality. Not one country surveyed held a majority opinion that the Internet held a positive influence over morality.
Despite these feelings, most emerging or developing countries have not participated in the Internet revolution. Less than half of participants in the survey said they used the Internet at least occasionally, through smartphones or other portable devices, although usage rates did vary. Computer ownership varied as well, at only 3% in Uganda and 78% in Russia. By comparison, 87% of adults in the US reported using the Internet as of early 2014, according to a Pew Research Centers study.
Across those countries surveyed, Internet usage holds a direct link to national income. Richer countries were found to have a higher rate of Internet users than poorer countries.
Internet access and smartphone ownership rates were found to be highest among the well-educated and young in these countries, in addition to people who are able to read or speak English even when other factors, such as age and education, are accounted for.
The survey also found that people with more Internet access are generally more accepting of its influence over society. One example shows 65% of Internet users who participated in the study feeling that the increase of internet use for personal relationships as a positive thing, while 44% of non-internet users agreed with that sentiment. Similar results were found concerning education, the economy and politics.
The survey was conducted in face-to-face interviews with 36,619 people in 32 emerging and developing countries, between March 17 and June 5, 2014. Comparison figures from the US were found through a Pew Research Center telephone interview conducted between April 22 and May 11, 2014, with 1,002 people.