Internet use has risen astronomically over the last decade. While the world’s population grew by only 17 percent (from 6 billion in 2000 to more than 7 billion in 2012), the number of internet users has skyrocketed more than 566 percent (from 361 million in 2000 to an astounding 2.4 billion in 2012). In fact, this figure represents a third of the world’s population.
Where is most of that growth coming from? Where are all those internet users, and how are they using the internet? What impact do these changes have? Let’s take a look at some data:
Internet Users by Region
Much of the internet expansion is actually taking place in developing areas of the world. In places like North America and Europe where most of the population is already online, there’s not much more room for growth. In Asia and Africa, on the other hand, where the vast majority of the world’s people reside, internet use is taking off.
As an example, in 2000, there were a little over 100 million internet users in North America. Today, there are about 273 million, for a growth rate of 153 percent. While that figure certainly represents a lot of people, it is nothing compared to the growth experienced in developing areas of the world. Let’s look at Latin America. Back in 2000, there were only about 18 million internet users. Today, there are 255 million—that’s a growth rate of 1311 percent.
Many of these developing areas also have further to go when it comes to getting everyone online. Take Asia: while only 26 percent of the people who live there are currently online, that number represents a staggering 1.1 billion people. As the internet penetrates even further, it’s easy to see how the number of internet users will just keep getting larger.
Mobile Internet Is Growing Too
How people access the ‘net is just as interesting as how many people are online. Mobile devices now account for a full 10 percent of all web traffic. The percentages are even higher in places like Africa where touchscreen tablets and smartphones often provide cheaper and more reliable internet access than do PCs.
What’s more is that analysts are predicting that more than a billion mobile devices are going to be sold this year alone. As more and more people start logging on with their Windows 8 tablets or smartphones, it’s easy to see how mobile traffic is likely to continue to rise.
As more and more people gain access to the internet, the digital divide is shrinking, and people’s lives are being affected in profound, and mostly positive, ways. One area where the impact of the internet is easy to see is how people shop. More than 85 percent of internet users worldwide are also internet shoppers, and global e-commerce revenue is expected to reach nearly $1 trillion this year alone.
While this may not seem like that significant of a change, it represents a true globalization of the economy. This change represents an opportunity to reach new markets and new audiences. Internet users in the UK, for example, can see and purchase products directly from companies or individuals located across the globe in Peru.
Another positive benefit of the increase in internet use is the educational opportunities that come along with it. Many respected universities around the world are now offering free online courses, many of them with achievement certificates. People who may not be able to afford education, or people in places where educational resources are not available, can take advantage of these classes to learn new skills.
In addition to free courses, people have access to thousands upon thousands of news articles, blog posts, opinion pieces, photographs, graphics, podcasts, songs, novels, slideshows, etc. that are published every day. These things offer different perspectives on how to live and what’s important, which can help all of us understand one another just a little bit more.
It’s almost unbelievable to think of the progress the internet has made in just twelve short years. In 2000, the internet was still a relatively novel concept, where now, more than a third of the world knows what it means to visit a webpage or to Google something. Most people in the developed world use it every day for work, shopping, finding old friends, and more.
With that in mind, it’s exciting to speculate what the next twelve years might bring. How much will the internet have grown? How much more dependent on the internet will we be? How much more connected will we be to people around the world?
How about you? Are you surprised by any of these statistics? What are your predictions for global internet use? Share with us in the comments.