NEW YORK: If the Internet were a country, it would be experiencing explosive population growth. According to a UN report, the number of people worldwide with access to the Internet has doubled within the past five years and is expected to surpass two billion by year end.
The report comes from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Geneva-based telecommunications division of the United Nations.
It predicts that 71% of people in industrialised countries will have Internet access this year, with 65% of people in these countries getting online at home.
The ITU’s report, released on World Statistics Day, suggests that the “digital divide” separating industrialised countries from developing ones remains intact.
In developing countries, where the bulk of Internet connections can be found in public places such as schools and libraries, only 21% of people have Internet access, and only 13.5% do so at home.
Sixty-five per cent of Europeans access the Internet, compared with 9.6% of Africans. Asia and the Middle East fall somewhere in the middle — 22% and 25% of their respective populations have Internet access.
It is in developing countries that Internet usage is expanding most rapidly. Of the 226 million new Internet users this year, ITU estimates that 162 million will be from developing nations.
ITU also found that cellphone access remains more prevalent than Internet access. Worldwide, 90% of the population lives within range of a mobile network and 68% of people in developing countries are covered.
Indeed, of the expected 5.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions this year, 3.8 billion are from developing nations. It was not reported how many of these phones can access the Internet.
The report added that 143 countries offer high-speed 3G cellular data service, up from 95 countries in 2007. Currently, 940 million people subscribe to 3G service, compared with 72 million in 2005. — AP
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