Nº 2 2013 > Internet use — the online population

Highlights from The World in 2013: ICT Facts and Figures

Highlights from The World in 2013: ICT Facts and Figures

ITU estimates that 2.7 billion people — or 39 per cent of the world’s population — will be using the Internet by the end of 2013. Internet access is forecast to remain skewed, however, with only 31 per cent of the population in the developing world online by that date, compared to 77 per cent in the developed world.

Users by region

Looking at regional access, Europe has the highest Internet penetration rate in the world (75 per cent), followed by the Americas (61 per cent). The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is in third place (52 per cent), followed by the Arab States (38 per cent), Asia-Pacific (32 per cent), and Africa (16 per cent).

Speaking to government ministers gathered at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré said “We have made the most extraordinary progress in the first twelve years of the new millennium… and yet we still have far to go. Two thirds of the world’s population — some 4.5 billion people — is still offline. This means that two thirds of the world’s people are still locked out of the world’s biggest and most valuable library. Two thirds of the world’s people are still refused access to the world’s biggest marketplace. And two thirds of the world’s people are still denied the extraordinary opportunities now available to the other third. Mobile broadband is clearly going to be a vital part of the solution, and we must continue to ‘mobilize’ to ensure that all of the world’s people have affordable, equitable access to the Internet.”

Households with Internet access

Household Internet penetration — often considered the most important measure of Internet access — continues to rise. ITU estimates that by the end of 2013, 750 million households worldwide will be connected to the Internet, with half of them in the developing world.

Africa has seen the fastest Internet penetration in its households between 2009 and 2013, with annual growth of 27 per cent, followed by Asia-Pacific, the Arab States and the Commonwealth of Independent States, with 15 per cent annual growth.

But despite this positive trend, of the 1.1 billion households around the world that are still unconnected, 90 per cent are in the developing world. Among the regions, the contrast is greatest between Europe, with the highest level of household Internet penetration (77 per cent), and Africa, with the lowest level (7 per cent). The majority of households in the Americas are online (61 per cent), compared with around one-third of households in the Arab States and Asia-Pacific.

Mind the gender gap

More men than women use the Internet: globally, 37 per cent of all women are online, compared with 41 per cent of all men. This corresponds to 1.3 billion women and 1.46 billion men.

The gender gap is more pronounced in the developing world, which is home to about 826 million female Internet users and 980 million male Internet users. In the developed world, there are about 475 million female Internet users and 483 million male Internet users.

High-speed access to the Internet

Differences in broadband speed persist. Uptake of high-speed broadband (at least 10 Mbit/s) is highest in some Asian economies, including the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong (China) and Japan, and in several European countries, such as Bulgaria, Iceland and Portugal.

In Africa, less than 10 per cent of fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions offer speeds of at least 2 Mbit/s. This is also the case for several countries in Asia-Pacific, the Americas and some Arab States.

Affordability and growth

Over the past five years, fixed-broadband prices as a share of gross national income (GNI) per capita dropped by 82 per cent. With services becoming more affordable, fixed-broadband uptake has shown strong growth. There are now almost 700 million fixed-broadband subscriptions, corresponding to a global penetration rate of 9.8 per cent.

The total number of fixed-broadband subscriptions in developing countries is expected to surpass the number in developed countries by the end of 2013. But there is still a wide gap when it comes to fixed-broadband penetration rates, with 6.1 per cent in developing countries (and less than 1 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa), compared to 27.2 per cent in developed countries.

Cost of mobile broadband

Competition among different mobile broadband technologies is putting pressure on mobile operators to continuously diversify and innovate in terms of service packages and pricing. The World in 2013: ICT Facts and Figures examines four typical mobile-broadband plans offered in the market. These are: postpaid handset-based and prepaid handset-based plans, both with 500 megabytes (MB) of data volume; and postpaid computer-based and prepaid computer-based plans, both with 1 gigabit (GB) of data volume.

The report shows that mobile broadband is less affordable in developing countries than in developed ones. And mobile broadband is considerably cheaper than fixed-broadband services in developing countries. For example, a postpaid computer-based mobile-broadband plan with 1 GB of data volume represents 18.8 per cent of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita, compared to 30.1 per cent for a postpaid fixed-broadband plan (also with 1 GB of data volume).

Of the four plans discussed in the report, postpaid handset-based services are the cheapest, while prepaid computer-based services are the most expensive, across all regions.

Europe has the most affordable broadband services, where a basic subscription costs, on average, less than 2 per cent of GNI per capita. In sharp contrast, Africa has the least affordable mobile-broadband services, with the price of a computer-based plan with 1 GB of data volume, for example, representing more than 50 per cent of GNI per capita on average.

The Arab States, and the Asia-Pacific region enjoy relatively affordable prices. For example, postpaid handset-based services account for 2.2 per cent of monthly GNI per capita in the Arab States and 3.5 per cent in Asia-Pacific. In the Americas and the Commonwealth of Independent States, prices remain relatively high (at 5 per cent or more of monthly GNI per capita) for all mobile-broadband services.

Pricing of broadband will continue to have significant implications for its uptake.

The World in 2013: ICT Facts and Figures was produced by the ICT Data and Statistics Division of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. The full report is available at: http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/facts/default.aspx


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