Global Megatrend – More than Half of the World is now Connected to the Internet

Written by Richard Hokenson 

The world is making great progress towards building a more inclusive global information society. ITU (International Telecommunication Union), the United Nations specialised agency for information and communications estimates that at the end of 2018, 51.2% of the global population (3.9 billion people) will be using the Internet. The 51.2% internet usage reflects the fact that almost 96% of the world’s population is now covered by mobile population signal of which 90% are covered by 3G access. With the growth in mobile broadband, there has been an upsurge in the number of people using the internet through their mobile devices.

Most internet users are in developed countries with more than 80% of their populations online. Internet usage is growing the fastest in developing countries, increasing from 20.6% in 2010 to 45.3% in 2018. Africa is the region with the strongest growth - the percentage of people using the internet increased from 6.5% in 2010 to 24.4% in 2018 (see Chart 1). Affordability, however, continues to remain an issue. Africa has the most expensive mobile data packages with prices for one gigabyte costing as much as $35. That means that users pay 5.5% of their monthly income, which is more than double the 2% figure stipulated by the UN Broadband Commission. It is felt that governments are not promoting connectivity in rural, remote or poor urban areas even if finances are not an issue. ITU states that more private financing is going into fiber cable networks that should allow more cost-effective usage of the internet for millions of people.

Other highlights of the ITU report are:

  • Fixed-telephone subscriptions continue to decline with a penetration rate of only 12.4% in 2018. The number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions is now greater than the global population.
  • Fixed-broadband subscriptions are continuously increasing. There are now more fixed-broadband connections (1.1 billion) than fixed-telephone connections (942 million). The growth in mobile-broadband subscriptions has been much stronger, increasing from 268 million in 2007 to 5.3 billion in 2018.
  • Almost half of all households have at least one computer, up from 27.6% in 2005.

The 50/50 milestone is both historic and critical given the number of people who will not only be connected but will also be able to attain crucial services online including education and healthcare. Continued growth will be a major megatrend impacting the global economy.



This update was researched and written by Richard Hokenson, as of 25 January 2019


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