Chart: One in two lacks internet access

Access to the internet is still profoundly uneven, between continents and countries. But regions with low penetration rates are catching up fast.

Global internet access chart

The map above shows three aspects of the internet in today’s world:

  • Internet penetration rates across regions
  • How fast these rates have increased since the beginning of the century
  • A visual of the underwater cables linking geographies

As of June 2016, around 50 per cent of the world’s population had access to the internet. Across regions, rates vary considerably, with North America having an average penetration rate of 90 per cent versus an average 29 per cent in Africa.

Gaps are also very wide within regions and between countries. In Asia, rates vary between 14 per cent in Laos and 93 per cent in South Korea. While in some countries in Africa, such as Burundi (4.1 per cent), Chad (3.3 per cent) or Niger (2.0 per cent), internet access represents an extraordinary privilege.

But internet technology is changing fast; it is becoming cheaper and no longer always involves land-based physical infrastructure (while still a niche system, satellite-based technology has made huge strides in terms of reliability, price and speed). Declining prices of internet terminals is also helping: the fastest-growing mode of accessing the internet – especially in emerging markets – is via mobile internet.

Africa has the lowest internet penetration rate, but its internet access growth rate has been +455 per cent per annum in the past 16 years. This compares with +240 per cent in the Middle East and +123 per cent in Latin America/the Caribbean. While access across the world remains very unequal, gaps are closing fast.

Learn more about globalisation and the internet in this short note.

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