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World’s 3.2bn internet users moving towards global ‘digital society’

Wednesday, May 27th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Almost half of the people on the planet are using the internet, according to a new report.

New figures from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) show that 3.2bn people are able to get online.

Of these, 2bn live in developing countries but that still leaves 4bn people in the developing world without access to the internet.

Internet penetration has increased from 6.5% in 2000 to 43% in 2015. Over that same period, the percentage of households with access to the internet has gone from 18% to 46%.

ITU’s figures also reveal that there are 7bn mobile subscriptions worldwide, a 10-fold increase since 2000 when there were 738m subscriptions.

“These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date, but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy, as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most,” said ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

Brahima Sanou, the director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, added: “ICTs will play an even more significant role in the post-2015 era and in achieving future sustainable development goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society.

“Our mission is to connect everyone and to create a truly inclusive information society, for which we need comparable and high-quality data and statistics to measure progress.”

The proportion of the world covered by 3G mobile broadband is increasing dramatically, reaching 47% in 2015 – a 12-fold increase since 2007.

Rural areas

In 2015, 69% of the global population will be covered by 3G mobile broadband, up from 45% in 2011.

There has also been a rapid extension of 3G mobile broadband into rural areas. ITU estimates that 29% of the 3.4bn people worldwide living in rural areas will be covered by 3G mobile broadband by the end of this year.

Among the 4bn people living in urban areas, 89% will have access to 3G mobile broadband.

The uptake of fixed broadband is also growing, albeit at a slower pace. It has seen a 7% annual increase over the past three years.

ITU said the price of fixed broadband services dropped sharply between 2008 and 2011 but has since stagnated, even increasing slightly in the least developing countries (LDCs).

LDCs are home to almost 1bn people, of which 851m do not use the internet.

ITU calculates the affordability of broadband by measuring the cost of a basic fixed or mobile broadband plan against a country’s average income.

Its figures indicate that broadband is affordable in 111 countries. The global average cost of a fixed broadband plan is 1.7 times higher than that of a comparable mobile plan.

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