According to a United Nations report released in late 2016, 47% percent of the world is now using the internet. This is up from the 43% estimated one year prior. Each percentage point of this statistic represents millions of people that now have access to life-changing health and education information, as well as global commerce. This report, along with the annual report from WeAreSocial.com, details internet use by country, painting a picture of how connected we are, and how far we have to go.
The highest regional rate of internet use was in Europe, where 79% of the population used the world wide web in 2015 according to the UN’s International Telecommunications Union report. The Americas and the Commonwealth of Independent States (comprised of former Soviet Republics including Russia) tied for second place with 67% of people having used the internet. The lowest region of internet use was in Africa where 25% of people used the internet. In the middle are the Asian and Arab states where 42% of people were connected.
By country, Iceland had the highest percentage of individuals with internet in 2015 at 98%, followed by Luxembourg, Andorra and several other European nations. Japan was in the 9th position with 93%; Korea at number 16 with a 90% rate, Israel in the 33rd position with 79% and the United States was in 40th place with 74.5% of the population connected. Further down the list, only 50% of China’s population used the internet and only 26% of Indians were online.
However, by sheer numbers China and India have the most internet users. A 2016 estimate by InternetLiveStats.com shows China as having around 721 million users and India with 462 million users. By comparison the U.S has roughly 287 million.
China’s internet is highly censored however, with the Chinese government blocking tens of thousands of websites. China has blocked Facebook, Youtube, Google Maps, Blogspot and Inforum among many others. Check if your website is blocked in China here. China’s internet censorship was labeled a trade barrier by the office of the US Trade Representative in April 2016.
India is subjected to internet censorship, as well, albeit to a much lesser extent. India is poised to be the “next big frontier” according to the UN report. The Indian government has implemented a program called “Digital India” which will connect 2.5 million village leaders by way of broadband internet. Mobile operator Bharti Airtel has already spent billions of dollars on adding new broadband-enabled base stations and fiber optic cables in order to connect all towns and over 500,000 villages. The project will be completed over the next couple years and create a “future-ready Internet backbone” in India. Further pushes to connect Indians are coming from Google, internet service provider RailTel and Mumbai City leaders, all whom are offering free Wi-Fi in massive projects.
Along with internet access comes social media use. According to the Digital in 2016 report from WeAreSocial.com, 31% of people in the world or 2.3 billion people are using social media. Worldwide mobile phone users amount to 51% and 27% of the world uses it to access mobile social media apps. Facebook dominates social media with 1.59 billion users around the world. China’s Qzone has the next largest following among social networks with 653 million users. Tumblr and Instagram follow with 555 million and 400 million users respectively. Twitter has 320 million users globally. Chinese social networks Baidu Tieba (300 million), Sina Weibo (222 million) and YY (122 million) are next in the popularity ranks. Russia’s Vkontakte has 100 million users while Pinterest and LinkedIn each have 100 million users globally, as well.
Facebook wants to connect the remaining 4 billion people sans internet using new technologies developed in the Facebook Connectivity Lab. For the first time in June 2016, a full-scale test flight was completed using a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned solar-powered aircraft dubbed Aquila that can transmit internet access down to receivers below. The airplane is the size of a Boeing 737 with a weight comparable to a car due to its carbon-fiber frame and design. The airplane will fly higher than commercial aircraft and weather, and will use solar power during the day and a battery at night to run continuously for up to 3 months. According to Facebook, this will give billions more internet access throughout the world.