By Fred Yaw Sarpong
As at the beginning of 2013, there over 2.7 billion people who are currently using the Internet, which corresponds to almost 40% of the world’s population, according to report from International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
In the developing world, 31% of the population is online, compared with 77% in the developed world. Europe is the region with the highest Internet penetration rate in the world (75), followed by the Americas (61%).
In Africa, 16% of the people are using the Internet, representing only half of the penetration rate of Asia and the Pacific.
The report states that more men than women use the Internet: globally, with 37% of all women are online, compared with 41% of all men. This is compare to 1.3 billion women and 1.5 billion men in the world.
In developing there are 826 million female using the Internet while there are also 980 million male using the Internet. In the developed world there are 475 million female online, as compare to 483 male online.
It is serious to note that, in the developing world, there are 16% fewer women than men who use the Internet, compared with only 2% fewer women than men in the developed world.
In 2013, 750 million households in the world, representing 41% are connected to the Internet. Half of them are in the developing world, where household Internet penetration has reached 28%. In the developed world, 78% of all households are connected to the Internet.
The report indicates that 90% of the 1.1 billion households not connected to the Internet are in the developing world.
Europe and Africa are the regions with the highest and the lowest levels of household Internet penetration respectively: It is 77% in Europe, compared with 7% in Africa.
According to ITU, the majority of households in the Americas are online (61%), compared with around one third of households in the Arab States and Asia and the Pacific.
Between 2009 and 2013, Internet penetration in households has grown fastest in Africa, with annual growth of 27%, followed by 15% annual growth in Asia and the Pacific, the Arab States and the Commonwealth Independent State (CIS).
By 2012, the majority of countries have reached the Broadband Commission target of offering basic fixed-broadband services at below 5% of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
‘Over the past five years, fixed-broadband prices as a share of GNI per capita dropped by 82%. By 2012, fixed-broadband prices represented 1.7% of monthly GNI per capita in developed countries. In developing countries, fixed-broadband services remain expensive, accounting for 30% of average monthly incomes,’ the report stated.
It’s also noted that, in 95 countries, including 48 developing countries, the price of a monthly fixed-broadband subscription represented 5% or less of monthly GNI per capita in 2012.
As services are becoming more affordable, fixed-broadband uptake has shown strong growth and by 2013, there are almost 700 million fixed-broadband subscriptions, corresponding to a global penetration rate of 9.8%.
However, in 2013, the total number of fixed-broadband subscriptions in developing countries surpasses those in developed countries. But there is still a wide gap when it comes to fixed-broadband penetration rates, with 6.1% in developing countries (and less than 1% in Sub-Saharan Africa), compared with 27.2% in developed countries.
Uptake of high-speed broadband (at least 10 Mbit/s) is highest in some Asian economies, including the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong (China) and Japan, and in several European countries, such as Bulgaria, Iceland and Portugal.
In Africa, less than 10% of fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions offer speeds of at least 2 Mbit/s. This is also the case of several countries in Asia and the Pacific, the Americas and some Arab States.
Mobile-broadband subscriptions have climbed from 268 million in 2007 to 2.1 billion in 2013. This reflects an average annual growth rate of 40%, making mobile broadband the most dynamic ICT market.
In developing countries, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions more than doubled from 2011 to 2013 (from 472 million to 1.16 billion) and surpassed those in developed countries in 2013.
Africa is the region with the highest growth rates over the past three years and mobile-broadband penetration has increased from 2% in 2010 to 11% in 2013.
By early 2013, the price of an entry-level mobile-broadband plan represents between 1.2- 2.2% of monthly GNI per capita in developed countries and between 11.3- 24.7% in developing countries, depending on the type of service.
However, in developing countries, mobile broadband services cost considerably less than fixed-broadband services: 18.8% of monthly GNI per capita for a 1 GB postpaid computer-based mobile-broadband plan compared to 30.1% of monthly GNI per capita for a postpaid fixed-broadband plan with 1 GB of data volume.
Among the four typical mobile-broadband plans offered in the market, postpaid handset-based services are the cheapest and prepaid computer-based services are the most expensive, across all regions.
A regional comparison highlights that mobile-broadband services remain largely unaffordable in Africa, where the price of a computer-based plan with 1GB of data volume represents on average more than 50% of GNI per capita.
Services are most affordable in Europe, where they represent on average less than 2% of GNI per capita.
In the Arab States and Asia and the Pacific region, the report pointed out that postpaid handset-based services are relatively affordable, accounting for 2.2% and 3.5% of monthly GNI per capita, respectively; prices in the Americas and CIS remain relatively high (5% or above of monthly GNI per capita) for all mobile-broadband services.
Meanwhile, currently there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world, with more than half in the Asia-Pacific region (3.5 billion out of 6.8 billion total subscriptions).
As global mobile-cellular penetration approaches 100% and market saturation is reached, growth rates have fallen to their lowest levels in both developed and developing countries.
Mobile-cellular penetration rates stand at 96% globally; 128% in developed countries; and 89% in developing countries.