A third of the world's population is expected to have some form of Internet access by the end of 2010, according to a survey. The gap between that haves and have-nots remains wide.
By the end of 2010, there will be 2 billion Internet users worldwide,
according to a report issued by the International Telecommunication Union, a
United Nations agency.
The report "The
World in 2010: ICT facts and figures
," released on Oct. 20, found the
number of Internet users worldwide has doubled over the past five years, and
estimated the Web-connected
will hit 2 billion by the end of this year. The United
States Census Bureau pegs the world population
roughly 6.8 billion.
As expected, most of the growth came from developing countries.
Of the 226 million new Internet users in 2010, about 72 percent are from
developing countries, according to the report.
The report highlighted significant regional differences: 65 percent of
Europeans are online, compared with only 9.6 percent of Africans.
Currently, there are 1.6 billion people worldwide with Internet access,
compared with 1.4 million in 2009. There is still room for more expansion, as
only 21 percent of people in developing countries will be online by the end of
2010, compared with 71 percent in developed countries, researchers found.
Also as expected, the Internet gap between developing and developed
countries remains very wide.
ITU's statisticians found that two-thirds
of people have Internet access at home in developed countries, but only 13.5
percent could claim the same in developing countries. Internet access in
schools, at work and in public locations are critical to get more people online,
said the telecommunications group.
With the boom in rich-media content and applications online, broadband
access will be critical to continued growth, the group said. ITU
expects global fixed broadband
to be 8 percent by the end of 2010, but penetration levels in
developing countries are very low. According to the report, there are mere 4.4
subscriptions per 100 people in developing countries, compared with 24.6 in
"Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational
technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin
long-term economic competitiveness," said ITU
Secretary-General Hamadoun Tour??Â«.
In comparison, mobile telephony is becoming ubiquitous, with over 90 percent
of the global population having access to mobile phones, said the report.
Growth is expected in the developing world, but unlike broadband, mobile
is high. Worldwide subscriptions for 3G and 3G-equivalent
services exploded 13-fold from 72 million in 2005 to 940 million in 2010, the
survey said. The number of countries offering these services also doubled from
2007 to 2010.
Mobile broadband has experienced "steep growth" over the past year,
especially in Europe and the United
States, the researchers wrote.
"Mobile phone penetration in developing countries now stands at 68
percent-higher than any other technology before," said the director of the
ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau,
Sami Al Basheer.
Mobile phones are not just for voice calls. ITU
researches said the number of text messages is booming, with a staggering 6.1
trillion SMS messages sent in 2010.
ITU and the UN's UNESCO jointly launched
Commission for Digital Development
to promote broadband-friendly policies
worldwide. ITU is the main source of
internationally comparable data and statistics on information and communication
technology within the United Nation's system of agencies.