A Connected World: The online human race

To say the growth of the internet has been (and continues to be) exponential is not to say anything new, but as we motor through the second decade of the 21st century it is worthwhile stopping to take stock of just how connected we, as a people, now are.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently released figures elucidating just how ‘online’ we are. The two bodies predict that as the last day of 2016 draws to a close some 3.5 billion human beings will be internet users – 45% of the global population.

Interestingly the two countries boasting the most web surfers, India and China, also contribute the most non-web surfers. Between them they house 40% of the world’s offline people. There are some interesting additions to the list of top connected countries as well. Indonesia has more online people than France, and Nigeria has more online people than France, Germany and Britain.

Of course Indonesia and Nigeria have very large populations which accounts for the numbers but the figures still serve to prove the reach of the internet into what might be considered less prosperous countries.

The principal driver for this heightened internet use has been the prevalence and reach of the mobile networks and the sheer number of people who now own devices that connect to them. US research company The Radicati Group, reported that last year the number of mobile devices in circulation outnumbered the global population by 1.3 billion and by 2018 there will be double the number of devices on earth than people. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will own one but ownership numbers will certainly increase.

Perhaps slightly troubling from ITU/IMF research is the prediction that by 2020 there will be more mobile subscribers than there are those with access to electricity or running water. It can only be hoped that as the online revolution marches unstoppably on, that its influence can be used to make sure people have access to the things that really matter.