I recently came upon an article by writer Frank Hersey on Technode which presented a study made by Cable.co.uk comparing 189 countries internet speeds in Mbps. According to this study of 189 countries, Singapore has the fastest internet in the world, while Yemen has the slowest.
Upon finishing the article, I was somewhat taken aback. I had always thought of South Korea as being the country with the fastest internet speeds. However, it did not even place among the top ten, ranking 16th at 22.9 Mbps.
But what about China’s internet speed? Certainly that is what we should be focusing on here, given the nature of the blog.
There are so many things I love about China. The crazy English sayings people wear on their shirts, rich and diverse cuisine, a challenging language, the list goes on and on.
However all countries have problems, and China is definitely not the exception. Pollution, corruption, and irksome crowds are all examples of what people have to put up with here. But aside from these hardships, there is another, slightly more insidious problem: internet speed.
Internet Speed in China Is a Serious Problem
According to the study by Cable.co.uk, China ranked 134th out of 189 countries at 1.55 Mbps.
Yes, China’s internet is incredibly slow.
Now, I could give you anecdotal evidence all day of me, bashing my head against my router while fiddling with my VPN in hopes of increasing download speeds. The startling frequency in which I switch to 4G on my phone because a landline simply won’t load the web page fast enough.
When you consider just how “developed” and “sophisticated” people talk about China is, especially in terms of it’s technology, this becomes slightly shocking. Of course, for Chinese and people that work on Mainland China, it’s not shocking at all. We have been struggling with slow internet speeds the whole time.
As someone who works on his computer from 9-5 everyday, usually employing some type of internet service, this is a massive problem. It also affects areas outside of my professional life (such as this blog- hello upload times).
The Deeper Implications of Slow Internet
While I can complain all day about how long it takes for me to boot up a VPN to get through the firewall, then sit through the slow download speeds on my favorite Youtube music video, there are perhaps larger, more important things that we can take away from this study.
The impact of slow internet creates ripples of negative effects in China as a whole. First, it effects workers in the knowledge sector, who rely heavily on IT and network connections to exchange information and use web-based services. Second, it limits a company’s potential to develop internationally, lessening their appeal to international talent and handicapping their headquarters on the mainland. Of course, these two problems are intertwined, but still different enough that they deserve their own individual mention.
Internet Speed Impacts Knowledge Worker Efficiency
There is no doubt that sluggish Mbps drastically reduces worker efficiency in the knowledge sector. For those of my readers who aren’t clear about how internet speed could negatively impact one’s work, I thought up a metaphor using construction tools.
Think of it this way, when you are building a house, you often can employ power tools such as nail guns and drills to conserve energy while increasing your speed of production. Now, you can do the same job with hammers and screwdrivers, but it will take much more time and energy than if you had the power tools.
For people that rely heavily on the web, using quality power tools is a lot like having a lightning fast connection to the internet. It makes their work more efficient and allows them to focus their effort in the areas where problems really lay.
So, at the micro-level, slow internet really hampers a knowledge workers performance.
But who cares about that right? A lot of us on the web are old enough to remember the times of dial-up internet connections. We all turned out fine, didn’t we?
Slow Internet Weakens A Firm’s International Competitiveness
It’s actually a very big deal. Most jobs today, outside of IT purists, rely on using the web in some way. Moreover, some of today’s most profitable and dynamic companies employ strong technology strategies.
Knowledge workers with slow internet speeds become bogged down, and this negatively effects a company’s bottom line. Whether it means the employee needs to work harder, or a department needs to push back it’s deadline, slower internet hinders a teams ability to complete tasks.
Here is important to make the distinction between domestic and international organizations. Competitively speaking, ranking low in this survey is not as important for domestic firms because they are all working in similar conditions and the playing field is level. However, in the international space, this becomes a major disadvantage.
Not only will international companies have this problem, but they will also find it increasingly hard to attract international talent. While this is important in all sectors, it is particularly important in companies that hope to use new technology, as those with expertise often come from outside of the country.
While not necessarily a “deal breaker”, internet speed is certainly a big factor for individuals and larger corporations alike. While we could all probably do with less time in front of the internet, it’s important that when we need it to work, it works.
Sidenote: Domestically hosted sites inside of the firewall are significantly faster than those coming from outside. Not really an Eisenstein-like comment, but something you might not appreciate fully unless you have spent some time in China.
Technode Article: http://technode.com/2017/08/10/chinas-internet-speed-comes-in-at-134th/