Is the world wide web really wide? A look at global internet access


Yesterday we celebrated a #HappyInternetDay, recognising Tim Berners-Lee who opened up the internet 25 years ago on 23rd August 2016, but how wide is the world web really? Statista shared the chart above showing internet access per 100 inhabitants in regions of the world.

The chart was derived from information shared by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). As you can see Africa has an average of 25.1%. Large parts of the world have mobile internet access, almost 95% of the population, are still covered by 2G networks but 4G/LTE is steadily growing, as mobile operators respond to type of devices being manufactured. More and more users are also switching to 4G devices for faster internet connectivity speeds, as they get more productive on their devices rather than on PCs with a router. Advanced mobile broadband subscriptions (LTE) have increased to nearly 53% or over 4 billion people on the planet, but penetration still remains low in developing countries.

Source: ITU

Other findings by the ITU were:

  • Fixed broadband growth strongest in developed countries: Global fixed-broadband subscriptions are expected to reach around 12 per 100 inhabitants in 2016, with Europe, the Americas and the Commonwealth of Independent States regions having the highest rates of penetration. Strong growth in China is driving fixed-broadband in Asia and the Pacific, where penetration is expected to surpass 10% by end of 2016.
  • ICT prices continue to fall: Mobile-broadband services have now become more affordable than fixed-broadband services, with the average price for a basic fixed-broadband plan more than twice as high as the average price of a comparable mobile-broadband plan. By the end of 2015, 83 developing countries had achieved the Broadband Commission’s affordability target.
  • Digital divide means half the world is still offline: By the end of 2016, more than half of the world’s population – 3.9 billion people – will not yet be using the Internet. While almost one billion households in the world now have Internet access (of which 230 million are in China, 60 million in India and 20 million in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries), figures for household access reveal the extent of the digital divide, with 84% of households connected in Europe, compared with 15.4% in the African region.
  • Global online gender gap widens: Internet penetration rates are higher for men than for women in all regions of the world. The global Internet user gender gap grew from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016. The regional gender gap is largest in Africa, at 23%, and smallest in the Americas, at 2%.
  • Internet bandwidth: By early 2016, international Internet bandwidth had reached 185,000 gigabits per second, up from a low of 30,000 gigabits in 2008. However, bandwidth is unequally distributed globally, and lack of bandwidth remains a major bottleneck to improved Internet connectivity in many developing and Least Developed Countries.

In a statement, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said:

“Access to information and communication technologies, particularly broadband, has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Global interconnectedness is rapidly expanding, however more needs to be done to bridge the digital divide and bring the more than half of the global population not using the Internet into the digital economy.


Brahima Sanou, the Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau added on:

“2016 marks the year when the international community is embarking on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets. ITU, given the tremendous development of ICTs, has a key role to play in facilitating their attainment. ITU statistics inform public and private-sector decision makers, and help us accomplish our mission: to make use of the full potential of ICTs for the timely achievement of the SDGs.”

To see more of the ITU’s 2016 statistics download them here.


Tech blogger. Gadget junkie. Life lover. I love eyeliner. Miller runs through my veins.

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