The number of Internet users around the world is soaring and will total about 3.5 billion-or about half the Earth's estimated population of about 7.4 billion in 2017, according to a Sept. 4 report from Forrester Research. That means that about 1.1 billion additional people around the world will be online in the next five years, up from about 2.4 billion people who are online in 2012.
The report, Forrester Research World Online Population Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global), "found that 2.4 billion people across the world use the Internet on a regular basis-i.e., at least once a month-from home, school, work, or any other location via a PC or a non-PC (mobile) Internet access device," wrote Forrester analyst Jitender Miglani on his Forrester blog. The forecast looks at the growth of the Internet population in 56 countries across five regions.
"In some countries-mostly developed economies, such as the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands-Internet penetration as a percent of the overall population is very high; more than 80 percent of the population are regular Internet users," wrote Miglani. "In other, mostly emerging markets-such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nigeria-Internet penetration ranges between 10 percent and 50 percent."
One of the drivers for this trend, he wrote, is the increase in mobile Internet users in emerging countries. "While higher PC penetration has driven the adoption of Internet in developed economies during the past two decades, faster mobile penetration in the emerging economies is helping increase the Internet population, thanks to 'mobile-only' Internet users."
Only about 40 percent of China's population, 44 percent of Russia's population and 10 percent of India's population use the Internet in 2012, according to Forrester. Other nations with low Internet usage include Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Egypt, Vietnam, Mexico and Turkey.
"As we move toward 2017, most of the laggard countries will move up the curve as Net access becomes more pervasive," wrote Miglani. Increased Internet adoption in those countries will depend on a number of factors, including the affordability of Internet access, the education and skills of the users, as well as national infrastructure and governmental policies.
The global population today is estimated at about 7.037 billion people, including about 314 million in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The estimated global population in 2017 will total 7.4 billion, according to figures from Negative Population Growth, an organization that monitors global population.
Global Internet usage is rising quickly. Only two years ago, in October 2010, a report by a United Nations agency noted that there would be an estimated 2 billion global users on the Internet by the end of that year.
Interestingly, a report from the Pew Internet Project in April found that one in five adults in the U.S. doesn't use the Internet because they don't think it is relevant to them. Senior citizens, those who prefer to take the research organization's interviews in Spanish rather than English, adults with less than a high school education and those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year are the least likely adults to have Internet access, according to the Pew survey.
In February 2001, when about half of adults were online, only 4 percent of American households had broadband access; as of August 2011, about six in 10 American adults (62 percent) have a high-speed broadband connection at home, the report found. Men are more likely than women to have home broadband, and whites are more likely than minorities.
One year ago, an IDC report predicted that mobile Internet usage will top desktop usage by 2015. The report noted that the impact of smartphones and tablet computer adoption would be so great that the number of users accessing the Internet through PCs would first stagnate and then slowly decline.