ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. Photo: ITU
An estimated 2.7 billion people – or one-third of the world’s population – remain unconnected to the Internet in 2022. New data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, point to slower growth in the number of Internet users than at the height of Covid-19.
An estimated 5.3 billion people worldwide are now using the Internet. While continued growth is encouraging, the trend suggests that without increased infrastructure investment and a new impetus to foster digital skills, the chance of connecting everyone by 2030 looks increasingly slim.
“The Covid-19 pandemic gave us a big connectivity boost, but we need to keep the momentum going to ensure that everyone, everywhere can benefit from digital technologies and services,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “This can only be achieved with more investments in digital networks and technologies, implementing best practice regulation, and a continued focus on skills development as we move to a post-pandemic era.”
Globally, according to ITU, the number of Internet users grew by 7 per cent and Internet penetration – the share of individuals using the Internet – grew by 6 per cent between 2021 and 2022.
However, growth is unevenly distributed across regions. Areas with low Internet penetration have achieved the fastest growth over the past year – following a typical diffusion pattern for new and emerging technologies.
Africa, the least connected of ITU’s six world regions, achieved 13 per cent year-on-year growth of Internet penetration. Today, 40 per cent of the population in Africa is online.
The Arab States showed robust growth, with the Internet now reaching 70 per cent of the population.
In Asia and the Pacific, Internet penetration grew from 61 per cent in 2021 to 64 per cent in 2022, relative to the region’s population.
The Americas, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Europe each achieved 3 per cent growth, with more than 80 per cent of the population online in each region.
Europe remains the most connected region globally, with 89 per cent of its population online.
According to ITU, the updated estimate of 3 billion people unconnected worldwide in 2021 was revised based on new data and refined modelling techniques, from the initial estimate of 2.9 billion released in November 2021.