Report: Only 37.9 Percent of World Population Online

John Lister's picture

A recent article published by Facebook suggests that less than 40 percent of the world's population has an Internet connection. While that figure continues to increase each year, the rate of growth has now slowed for four consecutive years.

The figure combines data from multiple sources around the world, plus Facebook's own activity logs. The data suggest that as of December 2014, approximately 37.9 percent of people in the world use the Internet, even if that involves going online as little as once a year.

In 2010, the number of people using the Internet grew by 14.7 percent year on year. That growth rate has slowed consistently, and the 2014 figure was only 6.6 percent higher than for 2013. It should be noted that the percentage increase is in the raw number of users, rather than an increase in percentage points.

Developing Nations Lag Far Behind in Internet Usage

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's a massive difference in Internet usage between rich and third world nations. In developed countries, approximately 76.2 percent of people go online, compared to 29.8 percent for the latter. The biggest disparity is between North America where 84.4 percent of people are online, compared with just 13.7 percent in South Asia. (Source:

What may come as a shock to many, however, is that 91.7 percent of people in the world live within range of a mobile network capable of carrying Internet data, albeit over the slower 2G system. The 3G system needed for services such as online video is available to 48.7 percent of people. (Source:

Cost And Language The Main Barriers

Facebook believes two main factors are limiting Internet adoption across the world. The first is affordability; of the entire world population, Facebook estimates only 50 percent of people can afford an Internet plan offering a minimum of 250MB of data a month. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average person could only afford to use 20MB a month, which Facebook says is equivalent to a couple of hours of ordinary web browsing.

The second issue is relevance. According to Facebook, many people who don't use the Internet are either simply unaware of its existence, or face a language barrier. It's calculated that to make the Internet accessible to even 80 percent of the global population, a worthwhile number of sites would need to be available in 92 different languages, most likely using a on-the-fly translation service.

What's Your Opinion?

Is it a problem that most people in the world aren't using the Internet? What more can be done to expand global uptake? Is it an issue for governments, or will businesses seeking to boost profits be the best way to get more online users?

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doulosg's picture

I think that's an amazing number! Maybe my perception of the world is faulty, but to have over one third of earth's population - almost 40% - connected electronically after, what, 25 years?, seems almost incredible.

I like the relevancy factor. Yes, you would think it would be more of a 3rd world issue, but ... do I really need to be commenting on this, online, when I should be working? What is relevant - in the 1st world - really?

Thanks for sharing the statistics.

rwells78's picture

Just because some folks live on and via Farcebook doesn't make it important to a subsistence farmer in the third world. The first world wastes a ton of time on the net, fortunately not everyone does.

guitardogg's picture

This is an important milestone! Over a third of the world being connected is significant. I feel the cost of high-speed internet access in this country is way too high! Yeah, the ISP's gotta make a buck, but more competition is needed to bring the cost down!

And what is relevant anyway? Do stupid cat videos count?

Thanks for the article!

ecash's picture

I try to explin the numbers to people..
HOW people connect, What numbers are added to this, and Why they connect.

You must understnad that MOST of the US Cellphone service have net access. Those numbers are added to this. Even in the USA, the numbers are only 60-70%.
reasoning isnt access. its those people that have a phone that can have access. even if they dont use it.
There are groups in the USA against electronic use..there are older people who dont WANT the net. There are people who know better then to place personal DATA on the net, and stay away from Social nets.
I even TRY to scare people, just starting, about the net...They either get SMART fast, or end up with a Virus riddled computer..

Other nations have interesting problems..MANY dont have a major backbone(Old phone lines) and its all Wireless setups. And anyone that has a phone, has a cellphone, and everyone of them is counted as net service. Even thos less then 50% of the people have a phone of any sort.

Many nations are restrictive, and the only access and services are for the HIGHER tier people.. Even China has tons of restrictions, as they are almost the size of the USA with 90% of the internet on the east coast..setting up the infrastructure is as hard as the USA..but even with 10% of the people they would have MORE access to people, then the USA has in total.

Lets forget about politics, and such and look at corporations..The same corps we have here, have branched out and NOW cover much of the rest of the world..maybe different names, but mostly the same corps..