There Are Almost As Many Mobile Subscriptions As People

Nearly half the world’s population will be connected to the internet by the end of 2016, according to the annual Measuring the Information Society Report released today by the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Much of this may be attributable to the rise of mobile penetration, with the ITU reporting those rates are steadily rising; or at the very least the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions has been steadily climbing.

Says the report:

At the end of 2016, there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people on earth and 95% of the global population lives in an area that is covered by a mobile-cellular signal.

The rate of mobile adoption is higher in certain countries than the number of citizens who have bank accounts or bank access, a fact that leads to the prevalence of mobile payment and remittance services such as Kenya’s M-Pesa service.

However, as the ITU points out in its flagship survey, many people have multiple mobile subscriptions as well as multiple Internet-connected devices, so separate metrics to measure global mobile adoption may be required in the future.

By the end of 2016, the ITU predicts that around 3.5 billion people will have internet access.

47% of the global population is now online—which is certainly progress, but also means that over half of the world’s population, or roughly 3.9 billion people, is not. The ITU’s target for online access in 2020 is 60% of the world’s population.

The report also states that while internet accessibility is high due to the spread of these mobile networks, internet use remains fairly low. From the report:

In 2016, mobile-broadband networks covered 84% of the world’s population, yet with 47.1% Internet user penetration, the number of Internet users remain well below the number of people with network access. While infrastructure deployment is crucial, high prices and other barriers remain important challenges to getting more people to enter the digital world.

Due to these cost and infrastructure barriers, according to the report, some countries are trailing behind, stating that “internet penetration levels in LDCs [lesser-developed countries] have reached the level enjoyed by developed countries in 1998.”

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