Report: Most Of World Now Online

John Lister's picture

More than half of the world's population now has Internet access according to newly-published estimates. The figures also suggest there are more mobile phones than people worldwide.

The estimates come from the International Telecommunications Union (a specialized agency of the United Nations), and the World Bank. (Source:

While most of the figures relate to subscriptions, the overall Internet use number is for individual people. The estimate has 51.2 percent of people online as of the end of 2018, with dramatic growth in Internet access in Africa helping reach this milestone.

Developing Markets Have Effect

The figure for mobile phone ownership is certainly eye-catching, particularly given it's based on active mobile subscriptions and thus doesn't cover old handsets that people own but don't use. The figure is 107 subscriptions for every 100 people in the world. (Source:

The higher subscription rate for mobile handsets is possible perhaps because it includes basic handsets in developing markets where even computers aren't common. Perhaps another reason is that some users have two or more subscriptions, including separate phones for personal and work use.

Home Phone Lines Getting Rarer

Another potentially surprising statistic is that the number of active mobile broadband subscriptions (69.3 per 100 people) is far above the number of active fixed-line broadband subscriptions (14.1 per 100 people.)

That has similar potential explanations. Businesses may well have a single fixed-line subscription for all employees in an office, but have multiple mobile broadband subscriptions. Meanwhile, mobile broadband may be a more financially and logistically viable way for people in developing markets, particularly in remote locations, to get online compared with fixed-line broadband.

The number of fixed-line phone subscriptions is now below the number of fixed-line broadband subscriptions at 12.4 per 100 people. That figure certainly comes with a note of caution as it may be distorted by how statisticians choose to count people who get their fixed-line phone through a cable bundle (for example), and how the figures distinguish between fiber-optic cables and dedicated copper phone lines.

What's Your Opinion?

Do these figures sound plausible to you? Is it easy to overlook that nearly half of the world's population doesn't have Internet access? Do you think getting the rest of the world online will have any significant impact?

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