Africa sees strong Internet growth
Only a quarter of Africans have access to the Internet, but the region is seeing the strongest growth, according to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) latest statistics.
For the first time, more than half of the world's population will be using the Internet by the end of 2018. The ITU estimates 51.2% of the global population, or 3.9 billion people, will be using the Internet this year.
Of all ITU regions, the strongest growth was reported in Africa, where the percentage of people using the Internet increased from just 2.1% in 2005 to 24.4% in 2018.
"We have surpassed 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," says ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.
In developed countries, slow and steady growth has increased the percentage of the world's population using the Internet, from 51.3% in 2005 to 80.9% in 2018. In developing countries, more sustained growth has shown an increase from 7.7% in 2005 to 45.3% at the end of 2018.
According to the estimates, the regions with the lowest growth rates were Europe, with 79.6%, and the Americas, with 69.6% of the population using the Internet. In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, 71.3% are using the Internet; 54.7% in the Arab States; and 47% in the Asia-Pacific region.
Access at home
The ITU found Internet access at home is also gaining traction, with almost 60% of households having Internet access at home in 2018, up from less than 20% in 2005. In developing countries, almost half of all households have Internet access at home, a considerable increase compared with 8.4% in 2005.
ITU estimates that, globally in 2018, almost half of all households had at least one computer, up from just above a quarter in 2005. However, in Africa, only 9.2% of households have access to a computer, although this is an increase from only 3.6% back in 2005.
In developed countries, 83.2% of households possessed a computer in 2018, compared with 36.3% in developing countries. Least developed countries (LDCs) showed the strongest growth during the period 2005-2018, but in 2018, still less than 10% of households in LDCs had a computer. The strongest growth rates were observed in the Arab States and the CIS region.
"The new 2018 estimates reveal that there continues to be a general upward trend in the access to and use of ICTs," says Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.
"Access to telecommunications networks continues to increase, in particular in mobile connections. As for access to the Internet, most Internet users will connect through a broadband connection, mobile broadband accounting for an ever-increasing share," Sanou says.
The ITU found mobile access to basic telecoms services is becoming ever more prominent. While fixed-telephone subscriptions continue to decline with a penetration rate of 12.4% in 2018, the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions is greater than the global population.
Growth in mobile-cellular subscriptions in the past five years was driven by countries in the Asia-Pacific and Africa regions. Growth was minor in the Americas and the CIS region, while a decline was observed in Europe and the Arab States.
The ITU says 96% of the world's population now lives within reach of a mobile-cellular network, while 90% of the global population can access the Internet through a 3G or higher quality network.
Continuing the trend reported in 2017, there were more fixed-broadband connections, 1.1 billion in 2018, than fixed-telephone connections, 942 million.
The growth in active mobile-broadband subscriptions has been much stronger, with penetration rates increasing from four 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 in 2018, the ITU says.
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 coming years.
In LDCs, penetration rates went up from virtually zero in 2007 to 28.4 subscriptions per 100 in 2018. The ITU found the strongest growth in mobile-broadband subscriptions has been in Asia-Pacific, the Arab States and Africa.