Internet Population Nears 2 Billion

The number of Internet users is expected to hit the two billion mark by the end of the year with most of the growth coming from developing countries, according to the latest report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Artwork: Chip Taylor
In celebration of World Statistics Day on October 20 as set by the United Nations, the Geneva-based UN body released "The World in 2010: ICT facts and figures," which also revealed that 1.2 billion of the two billion Internet population will be from developing countries. Of the 226 million new Internet users in 2010, 162 million will be coming from developing countries.

China remains the largest Internet market in the world with more than 420 million Internet users.

Despite the high growth rates from developing countries, 71 per cent of the Internet population by the end of the year will be from developed countries while only 21 per cent will be from developing countries.

Private vs Public Access

There is also disparity in the way people in countries around the world access the Internet and the technology used. The report added that by the end of 2010, the number of users who can access the Internet from home will reach 1.6 billion from 1.4 billion last year. This is especially true for developed countries where broadband is the technology most used to get Internet access.

In developing countries, the Internet is accessed through schools, offices and public locations, such as cafes.

By geographic region, the ITU report noted that there is a gap in Internet use among the population.

Per 100 inhabitants, the number of Internet users in the Asia Pacific region is expected to reach 21.9, next to the Arab region at 24.9. Europe will have the highest penetration per 100 inhabitants at 64 followed by the Americas. The ITU called attention to the gap between Europe and Africa which is expected to have an Internet penetration of only 9.6 per 100 inhabitants.

Mobile Telephony

However, developing countries scored in mobile phone penetration.

"In the developing world, mobile cellular penetration rates will reach 68 per cent at the end of 2010, mainly driven by the Asia Pacific region," the report read. "India and China alone are expected to add more than 300 million mobile subscriptions in 2010."

Sami Al Basheer, director of ITU's telecommunication development bureau, said the 68 per cent is "higher than any technology before. These countries have been innovative in adapting mobile technology to their particular needs and will be able to draw even greater benefits from broadband once adequate and affordable access is available."

The Philippines and China were also cited for contributing significantly to mobile operators' revenues last year due to the SMS revenues they produce.

Together, the U.S. and the Philippines accounted for 35 per cent of all SMS sent in 2009. This further lends credence to the Philippines' claim as the "SMS capital of the world." Philippine mobile operators have said in the past that their networks were handling anywhere from 400 to 700 million text messages per day.

In 2009, SMS revenue accounted for 12 per cent of China's largest mobile operator's total revenue, the ITU noted.

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