September 27, 2021

New ITU Statistics Show More Than Half the World is Now Using the Internet

From the ITU (International Telecommunications Union):

ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), estimates that at the end of 2018, 51.2 per cent of the global population, or 3.9 billion people, will be using the Internet.

“ITU’s global and regional estimates for 2018 are a p​ointer to the great strides the world is making towards building a more inclusive global information society,” says Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary General. “By the end of 2018, we will surpass the 50/50 milestone for Internet use. This represents an important step towards a more inclusive global information society. However, far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy. We must encourage more investment from the public and private sectors and create a good environment to attract investments, and support technology and business innovation so that the digital revolution leaves no one offline.”


Source: ITU

“The new 2018 estimates reveal that there continues to be a general upward trend in the access to and use of information and communication technologies,” says Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Access to telecommunication networks continues to increase, in particular in mobile connections. However, affordability should continue to be at the top of our priorities for the digital economy to become a reality for all.”

Percentage of Population Using the Internet

According to ITU, in developed countries, slow and steady growth increased the percentage of population using the Internet, from 51.3 per cent in 2005 to 80.9 per cent in 2018. In developing countries, growth has been much more sustained increasing from 7.7 per cent in 2005 to 45.3 per cent at the end of 2018. Of all ITU regions, the strongest growth was reported in Africa, where the percentage of people using the Internet increased from 2.1 per cent in 2005 to 24.4 per cent in 2018. According to the estimates, the regions with the lowest growth rates were Europe, with 79.6 per cent, and the Americas, with 69.6 per cent of the population using the Internet. In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, 71.3 per cent will be using the Internet; 54.7 per cent in the Arab States and 47 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mobile-Cellular Subscriptions

Mobile access to basic telecommunication services is becoming ever more predominant. While fixed-telephone subscriptions continue to decline with a penetration rate of 12.4 per cent in 2018, the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions is greater than the global population. Growth in mobile cellular subscriptions in the last five years was driven by countries in Asia-Pacific and Africa regions. Growth was minor in the Americas and the CIS region while a decline was observed in Europe and the Arab States.

Fixed and Mobile Broadband Subscriptions

Broadband access continues to demonstrate sustained growth. Fixed-broadband subscriptions are continuously increasing. Continuing the trend reported in 2017, there were more fixed-broadband connections, 1.1 billion in 2018 than fixed-telephone connections (942 million).

​The growth in active mobile-broadband subscriptions has been much stronger, with penetration rates increasing from 4.0 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2007 to 69.3 in 2018. The number of active mobile-broadband subscriptions have increased from 268 million in 2007 to 5.3 billion in 2018. Developing countries are registering much faster growth in mobile broadband subscriptions compared to developed countries. In developing countries, penetration rates have reached 61 per 100 inhabitants in 2018, with much more scope for further growth in coming years. In LDCs, penetration rates went up from virtually zero in 2007 to 28.4 subscriptions per 100 in 2018. The strongest growth in mobile broadband subscriptions has been observed in Asia-Pacific, the Arab States and Africa.

Mobile Network Coverage

Nearly the entire world population, or 96 per cent, now lives within reach of a mobile cellular network. Furthermore, 90 per cent of the global population can access the Internet through a 3G or higher speed network.

Households with a Computer

ITU estimates that, globally in 2018, almost half of all households had at least one computer, up from just above a quarter in 2005. In developed countries, 83.2 per cent of households possess a computer in 2018, compared with 36.3 per cent in developing countries. LDCs show the strongest growth during the period 2005-2018. In 2018, less than 10 per cent of households in LDCs has a computer. The strongest growth rates were observed in the Arab States and the CIS region. In Africa, the proportion of households with access to a computer increased from 3.6 per cent in 2005 to 9.2 per cent in 2018.

Households with Internet Access

Internet access at home is gaining traction. ITU estimates that almost 60 per cent of household has Internet access at home in 2018, up from less than 20 per cent in 2005. In developing countries, almost half of all households has Internet access at home, a considerable increase compared with 8.4 per cent in 2005. Regional developments broadly follow the trends observed for households with computers.

The global and regional estimates are contained in Chapter 1 of the Measuring the Information Society Report, to be released on 11 December 2018 at the 18th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS). WTIS will be held from 10 to 12 December 2018, at ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, with experts from the global statistical community, ICT analysts and ICT regulatory agencies, policy-makers, C-level executives from the private sector, and senior officials from UN agencies.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.