As we move further into 2020, well over 4 billion people are now using the Internet—which represents a whopping 53.6% of the global population, according to recent data from the International Telecommunication Union.
Since just after the turn of the century, the number of Internet users has more than quadrupled from just over 1 billion people in 2005, signaling that the world is far more interconnected than ever before. This is also leading to a marked rise in trends that are shaping the future of work (like working from home and telecommuting).
For the first time in history, the increase in Internet usage in recent years has lifted Internet penetration up to above half of the global population:
In that same report though, the ITU identified a major gap between Internet usage rates in developed and least developed countries. With a large margin, most of the world’s offline population lives in the least developed countries—with developed countries citing Internet usage rates of more than 86% and the world’s least developed countries at just above 19% last year:
Much of the sustained growth in Internet connectivity we’re seeing today, has continued to come from mobile devices. In fact, mobile connectivity penetration has gone up dramatically in recent years, with almost the entire world (97%) now living within reach of a mobile cellular signal and over 82% of people having coverage with at least an LTE or higher mobile broadband connection:
One reason Internet access has taken off so much over the past 20 years, is the rising affordability for both mobile and fixed broadband connections. The ITU reports that mobile broadband is currently affordable in 89 countries, with a mobile plan costing less than 2% of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
Although meaningful progress has been made in recent years on Internet usage around the world, affordability still remains a major challenge in many countries, especially in the least developed countries.
As time goes on and Internet connectivity reaches higher levels of penetration, we’ll expect to continue seeing global economic benefits as more people take advantage of remote employment opportunities, pursue their own digital businesses by learning to start a blog, and put their skills to use as a service to a worldwide pool of companies.