ABOUT 51.2 per cent of the global population, or 3.9 billion people, will, at the end of the year, be using the internet, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has said.
The ITU is the United Nations’ (UN’s) specialised agency for information communication technologies (ICT). Of all ITU regions, the strongest growth was reported in Africa, where the percentage of people using the internet increased from 2.1 per cent in 2005 to 24.4 per cent in 2018.
According to the estimates, the regions with the lowest growth rates were Europe, with 79.6 per cent, and the Americas, with 69.6 per cent of the population using the Internet. In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, 71.3 per cent will be using the internet, 54.7 per cent in the Arab states and 47 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region.
ITU’s Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said the agency’s global and regional estimates for 2018 are a pointer to the great strides the world is making towards building a more inclusive global information society.
“By the end of 2018, we will surpass the 50/50 milestone for internet use. This represents an important step towards a more inclusive global information society. However, far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy. We must encourage more investment from the public and private sectors and create a good environment to attract investments, and support technology and business innovation so that the digital revolution leaves no one offline,” he said.
The new estimates show that there continues to be a general upward trend in the access to and the use of ICT, according to the Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou.
Access to telecoms networks, he said, has continued to increase, particularly in mobile connections. “However, affordability should continue to be at the top of our priorities for the digital economy to become a reality for all,” he said.
According to ITU, in developed countries, slow and steady growth has increased the percentage of population using the Internet from 51.3 per cent in 2005 to 80.9 per cent in 2018. In developing countries, growth has been much more sustained, increasing from 7.7 per cent in 2005 to 45.3 per cent at the end of this year.
Mobile access to basic telecoms services is becoming ever more predominant. While fixed-telephone subscriptions continue to decline with a penetration rate of 12.4 per cent this year, the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions is greater than the global population. Growth in mobile cellular subscriptions in the last five years was driven by countries in Asia-Pacific and Africa regions. But the same growth was minor in the Americas and the CIS region while a decline was observed in Europe and the Arab states.
Broadband access has continued to demonstrate sustained growth, while fixed-broadband subscriptions are increasing. Also continuing the trend reported in 2017, there were more fixed-broadband connections, with 1.1 billion in 2018 than fixed-telephone than the 942 million recorded last year.
The growth in active mobile-broadband subscriptions has been much stronger, with penetration rates increasing from 4.0 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2007 to 69.3 in 2018. The number of active mobile-broadband subscriptions have increased from 268 million in 2007 to 5.3 billion this year.
Developing countries are registering much faster growth in mobile broadband subscriptions compared to developed countries. In developing countries, penetration rates have reached 61 per 100 inhabitants in 2018, with much more scope for further growth in the coming years. In LDCs, penetration rates went up from virtually zero in 2007 to 28.4 subscriptions per 100 in 2018. The strongest growth in mobile broadband subscriptions has been observed in Asia-Pacific, the Arab states and Africa.
Nearly the entire world population, or 96 per cent, now lives within the reach of a mobile cellular network. Furthermore, 90 per cent of the global population can access the internet through a 3G or higher speed network.
ITU estimated that, globally this year, almost half of all households had at least, one computer up from just above a quarter in 2005. In developed countries, 83.2 per cent of households possess a computer this year, compared with 36.3 per cent in developing countries. LDCs showed the strongest growth during the period 2005-2018. This year, less than 10 per cent of households in LDCs has a computer. The strongest growth rates were observed in the Arab states and the CIS region. In Africa, the proportion of households with access to a computer increased from 3.6 per cent in 2005 to 9.2 per cent this year.
Internet access at home is gaining traction. ITU estimated that almost 60 per cent of household has internet access at home in 2018, up from less than 20 per cent in 2005. In developing countries, almost half of all households has internet access at home, a considerable increase compared with 8.4 per cent in 2005. Regional developments broadly follow the trends observed for households with computers.