Moving Towards a Digital Society

The Internet is regarded as a powerful resource for information. What started as an idea in a technical paper by Mr Berners-Lee, then a computer scientist at a European physics lab, who outlined a way to easily access files on linked computers, has developed into a global phenomenon that has changed almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Today, there are over 1 billion websites worldwide. Most are in English. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency that oversees international communications, more than 3.2 billion people now use the Internet, which is almost half the global population. The ITU also reports there are more than 7 billion mobile device subscriptions, equivalent to one for every living person. According to Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU bureau, the ‘Internet communications technology’ revolution has driven global development in an unprecedented way and will play an even more significant role in the development agenda and in achieving future sustainable development goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society.

These are staggering numbers. Of the billion or so websites, Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses ranks 740,404 as the most popular website in the world, according to our latest analysis, and improving. The website scores highly in all categories, from content and freshness, to mobile viewing optimisation and social interest. The website and its content, which can be read in over 90 languages, is visited regularly by growers, researchers, educators, students and allied trades across 145 countries. The website also serves as a trusted portal to quickly locate products and services, or to research an area of interest. Published since 1991, Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses has amassed an enormous about of data, which chronicles the industry’s modern day development, and the major players.

Despite its rapid growth, there are also downsides to the Internet. Apart from viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, malware and spam that inhabit and frustrate Internet communications, literally anyone with an Internet connection can put up a webpage in a matter of minutes that would be capable of fooling the unwary Internet surfer. How can you count on a source of information to be accurate? Even Wikipedia, a self-propagating online encyclopedia, has come under fire as a trusted source. As a magazine editor, it’s crucial when looking for valid sources to look carefully at the purpose of the page, the author(s), and the institution that backs or produces the page, if any. Even then, there is the chance that what I’m reading has been written by someone who is not an expert on the subject.

There are many challenges for website owners across every sector, not least the protective cropping industry, which rates poorly in the popularity stakes. It continues to surprise me because hydroponic and greenhouse devotees are acknowledged as technologically savvy. According to a Nielsen estimate (2013), most websites exist without being seen, that the average person doesn’t venture very far across the web. I’ve been unable to find more recent data, but I suspect the trend hasn’t changed much since.

The World Wide Web is not unlike the Universe with its billions of stars. The challenge is to make your website a bright star so that it can be found. That means constantly reviewing your website to improve its performance and visibility, including the integration of social media and optimising such things as Meta tags so that search engine worms can map your presence. It’s not unlike a celestial map!  Ω

PH&G May 2016 / Issue 167