On 2013, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google had mentioned in a statement that by 2020, every person on Earth would be connected via the internet. The statement made the world wonder whether it was indeed possible to connect the 7 billion people of the planet to the internet by the end of the decade.
Statistics, however, are not encouraging. Presently, only about one-third of the global population is online. Thus, it becomes nearly impossible that the remaining two-thirds of the global populace will have internet access by the year 2020. Moreover, a large section of the world population does not have access to even the basic necessities of life and suffer from extreme poverty, malnutrition, and ill health. Thus, it is unlikely that the internet will reach them in decades to come. The priority would be to ensure that these people have access to safe drinking water, hygienic toilets, proper nutrition, and other necessities.
On the other hand, it is also true that the smartphones will definitely bring the internet to many people living in the developing nations of the world. Today technological advancements have flooded the market with affordable smartphone models. The public in the developing economies thus has easier access to these devices now than ever before. In Africa, a significant part of financial transactions takes place via online payment methods. Countries like India are encouraging the digitization of monetary transactions, a move that will necessitate the need for the internet for such transactions.
Thus, although it might be nearly impossible to achieve a 100% internet penetration by 2020, the same will definitely increase at a rapid rate with each passing year.
North America: World Region with the Highest Internet Penetration
North America has an overwhelming number of internet users. Nearly 80% of the US population, accounting for about 260 million people, will access the internet at least a single time per month. Canada also has a high internet penetration rate of over 80% of the Canadian population. In these two countries, more than 70% of the cell phone users have a smartphone while nearly 80% of the population uses a mobile phone.
Africa: World Region with the Lowest Internet Penetration
Only 16% of the population of Africa have access to internet facilities. This figure should come as no surprise. Africa has some of the world’s poorest economies. A significant section of the continental population suffers from extreme poverty. Many people die here due to malnourishment and lack of proper healthcare. Thus, it is quite evident that most of the continent’s poor people are unable to afford a smartphone or other devices for connecting to the internet. Internet access is also not uniformly distributed in Africa. South Africa is the source of nearly two-thirds of the total online activity in Africa. However, the country accounts for only 5% of the continental population. Seychelles, a small African island nation with a thriving tourism sector has one of the largest percentages of internet subscribers in the continent.
Internet Penetration in Other Regions of the World
In both Oceania and Europe, over 50% of the residents have access to the internet. The former has an internet penetration of 68% and the latter 63%. Latin America comes next with an internet penetration of 43% of the regional population. The Middle East and Asia follow with 40% and 27% internet penetration, respectively. With the growth in technology and the availability of cheaper devices, it is expected that more and more people across the world will be connected to the internet in the years to come.