While 4.9 billion people used the Internet in 2021, against around 4.1 billion in 2019 (which represents an increase of 17%), 2.9 billion people, or 37% of the world’s population, have never had access to it, estimates the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Around 96 % of those who are still not connected live in developing countries, underlines the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICT). And among the 4.9 billion people considered to be “ Internet users “, hundreds of millions have access only occasionally, by means of shared or shared devices. low-speed connectivity which greatly limits the usefulness of their connection.
The 2021 edition of the ITU annual publication “ Data and figures ”, which presents the state of play of digital connectivity in the world, also indicates that the number of Internet users in the world has increased by more than 10% during the first year of the pandemic, which is by far the largest annual increase in ten years.
The strong growth observed since 2019 is largely explained by increased use of the Internet in developing countries, where Internet penetration has increased over 13 %. In 46 countries designated by the UN as least developed (LDCs), the average increase was more than 20%.
Although the digital divide between men and women is narrowing in all regions of the world and is practically non-existent in developed countries (with 89% of men and 88% of women online), strong inequalities persist, however, in the most less advanced (31% of men connected, against only 19 % of women)
In LDCs, city dwellers are almost four times more likely to use the Internet than people living in rural areas (47% of people connected in urban areas, compared to 10% in rural areas).
ITU figures also show a clear mismatch between digital network availability and actual connection. While 95% of the people in the world could theoretically access a 3G or 4G mobile broadband network, billions of people are not connected.