The Internet Now Has 3.2 Billion Users

Over the last 15years, global internet use has increased almost seven-fold from 6.5 to 43 percent.

Emiko Jozuka

Emiko Jozuka

Image: Alexandre Duret-Lutz/Flickr

Over the last 15 years, global internet usage has increased almost seven-fold, bumping the figures up to 3.2 billion worldwide users. That's the finding of a new report released today by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency responsible for issues concerning information and communication technologies.

In 2000, 6.5 percent of people across the world were connected; in 2015, 43 percent of people are.

The new figures released by the ITU reveal how information technology has progressed, and mark out the gaps in connectivity since 2000, when global leaders drew up the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Within this, the ITU contributes to "Goal 8: develop a global partnership for development", which means increasing internet users worldwide. This year, governments are set to make their final assessments of those goals, and data on the progress made can be tracked in a progress chart released in 2014.

Mobile broadband is the most dynamic market area, with global use increasing 12-fold since 2007 to 47 percent . The report also estimates that by the end of 2015, 69 percent of the world's population will be covered by 3G mobile broadband, with the tech increasingly expanding into rural areas.

Although progress in closing the digital divide has been made, the report highlighted that four billion people in the developing world still remain offline.

Europe tops the Americas in both percentage of households with internet access (82.1 percent compared to 60 percent) and individuals (77.6 percent compared to 66 percent), making it the most connected continent.

"These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date, but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy, as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao at the press conference launching the report today at the 2015 World Summit on the Information Society Forum in Geneva.

Although progress in closing the digital divide has been made, the report highlighted that four billion people in the developing world still remain offline. For instance, 851 million people of the nearly one billion people living in what the UN dubs the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) such as Bhutan, Chad, and Vanuatu, still don't use the internet. What's more, with only one in five people in Africa using the internet compared to two in five people in Asia and the Pacific, or three in five in the Commonwealth and Independent States, there's scope for improvement.

While broadband is now affordable in 111 countries, the uptake across all least developing countries is growing at a slower rate with only a seven percent annual increase over the last three years.

"ICT will play an even more significant role in the post-2015 era and in achieving future sustainable development goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society," said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, who noted that the ITU's mission was to "connect everyone."