Most of the World Still Not Online: Report

John Lister's picture

The majority of people in the world could be using the Internet within a couple of years according to new projections. The growth has largely been driven by cheaper and more widely accessible mobile Internet service.

The figures come from the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency. It says that in the year 2000, just 400 million people were online, around 6.5 percent of the world's population. (Source:

Based on collating international figures, the ITU expects that figure to be 3.2 billion at the end of 2015. That equates to 43.4 percent of people, covering 46.4 percent of households. (Source:

Mobile Access Makes A Difference

The big difference is mobile Internet. Even by the end of this year, only 10.8 percent of households around the world are expected to have a fixed-line broadband service, such as over a phone line or cable. However, the equivalent figure for mobile broadband is expected to be 47.2 percent.

That's because mobile provision has expanded rapidly. The ITU estimates that by year's end, approximately 96.8 percent of people in the world will live in a place with coverage by a 2G cellular network; it means that if users had a suitable smartphone, they could use data services to get online, albeit often at a slow speed.

Developing Nations Still Lag Behind

The forecast has 7 billion subscriptions to mobile phone service, which appears to include pre-paid and post-paid deals. That works out at the equivalent of 96.8 percent of the world's population, though that's a very misleading proportion as it's distorted by those people who have more than one device. That includes people with separate phones for work and personal use, or people who have mobile data plans for tablets or laptops as well as phones.

Such rapid growth means the raw number of people using the Internet in developing countries is now greater than the number in developed countries. There's still a big divide though. While 82.1 percent of European homes have Internet access, it's just 10.7 percent in Africa. The figures aren't much closer when you look at individuals: 77.6 percent in Europe compared with 20.7 percent in Africa.

What's Your Opinion?

Did you ever see a day when almost every home in the world could theoretically get mobile Internet? Will developing nations ever catch up with developed countries when it comes to getting people online? Is the Internet's potential limited by the fact that more than half of people around the world don't yet use it?

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