Global internet users surpass 3bn… but mainly in rich countries

03/12/2014

Over 3 billion people are now connected to the internet, marking an increase of 6.6% over last year, according to new research.

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The study, from the UN's International Telecommunication's Union (ITU) suggests that access can have a huge impact "for those who are the poorest and most disenfranchised, including women, youth and those with disabilities".

However, the research shows that the number of internet users in developing countries has doubled in the five years from 2009 to 2014, with two-thirds of all people online now living in the developing world.

Although the number of people connected to the internet globally has surpassed the 3 billion milestone, the ITU found that there are still more than 4.3 billion people not yet online, 90 percent of which live in developing countries.

In the world's 42 least-connected countries, which are home to 2.5 billion people, access to information and communications technology and infrastructure remains largely out of reach, particularly for the large rural populations found there, the organisation said.

Earlier this month, the ITU reiterated its plan to help bring a further 1.5 billion people online by 2020, as part of its "Connect 2020 Agenda for Global Telecommunication/ICT Development".
ITU secretary-general Dr Hamadoun I Touré said that IT and related technology has the potential to make the world a "much better place".

"In particular for those who are the poorest and the most disenfranchised, including women, youth, and those with disabilities," said Touré.

In the mobile phone segment, the report estimated that by the end of 2014 there will be 7 billion mobile subscriptions, roughly corresponding to the total global population.

However, it warned against the conclusion that everyone in the world is connected, with many users possessing multiple services, resulting in global growth figures that translate into little real improvement in the level of connectivity of those in the globe's least-connected regions.

The ITU also issued its ICT Development Index (IDI) country ranking for 2014, which this year was topped by Denmark, closely followed by South Korea, which had led the rankings for the previous three years.

Almost all countries surveyed improved their ranking this year, said the ITU. In terms of regional comparisons, Europe’s average IDI value of 7.14 remained well ahead of the next best-performing region, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS - 5.33), followed by the Americas (4.86), Asia & the Pacific (4.57), the Arab States (4.55) and Africa at 2.31.

The report also identified a group of the most dynamic countries, which have recorded above-average improvements in their rank or value over the past 12 months. These included UAE, Fiji, Cape Verde, Thailand, Oman, Qatar, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Georgia.

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