More than half of the world is online, but…

It’s cause for celebration that more than half of the world is now using the internet, but the difference in connectivity rates between the richest and poorest countries has remained nearly the same for a decade, and overall growth rates have slowed.


Global averages can hide that only some world regions have connected more than 50% of their population. Europe reached 50% eleven years before the rest of the world, and has now reached nearly 80%. Meanwhile only 24% of people in Africa use the internet.

To really understand the weight of this inequality, consider that more than 80% of the world’s population lives in developing countries. If there were only 100 people living in the world, almost 56 of them would be living in the Asia & Pacific region where the world’s most populous countries, China and India, are. Only 26 would have internet access.

In Europe, 7 out of 9 people would be using the internet. And in Africa, less than 4 out of 13 would be online.

Which world regions have more than 50% of people online?

Key ICT indicators for developed and developing countries and the world, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 2018

Inequalities don’t just stop at access. The least connected regions also contend with the least dependable and slowest internet at the least affordable prices. Moreover, women are disconnected to a higher degree than men, worsening the effects of gender inequality.

Universal and affordable internet for all is one key aspiration of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, because unless the internet is accessible, other development factors lag behind, including education, health, and free speech. Overcoming digital divides requires long-term planning and commitments on the part of governments, the private sector and civil society.

If there were only 100 people in the world, here’s who would be online

Combined data from Key ICT indicators for developed and developing countries and the world, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 2018 and World Population Prospects 2017, United Nations DESA/Population Division, 2017. Icons: “people” by on NounProject (CC-BY)

How are digital divides overcome in your country?

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