Almost half of the world’s population is now online, but the rate of connectivity is still hugely uneven between regions. In Europe nearly 80% of people have Internet access, while only 20% of people in Africa can access the Internet, despite the rapid uptake of mobile phones in most countries.

According to the the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) global connectivity rates went up by just 5% in one year. Considering that Internet access is crucial to economic development, we urgently need affordability, accessibility and quality to increase for the populations that need it most.

Today’s rise in connectivity is driven by young Internet users: people between the ages of 15-24 make up almost one quarter of all people online. But even among them, regional differences make for a stark contrast. In Europe, 96% of youth are online, compared with only 40% of young people in Africa.

Growth in percentage of people online worldwide


Data source: Time series of ICT data for the world, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 2017

Even when the number of people online rises, women are not guaranteed connectivity at the same rates as men. In every region of the world, except in the Americas, men outnumber women online.

Wherever women have less access to education, social and economic rights, it follows that they also have less Internet access. In fact, the digital divide contributes to inequality because women have less access to professional opportunities, information and communication channels.

In the absence of policies to reverse the trend, gender parity can easily grow worse. In Africa there are a quarter less women online than men, a difference that has increased notably since 2013.

Percentage of people online worldwide, by gender


Data source: ICT Facts and Figures 2017, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 2017