ITU: More Than Half of the World’s Population Using Internet, as Africa is taking the leap.

The International Telecommunication Union reports that for the first time in history, half of the global population is using the internet. A new report finds by the end of the year, 3.9 billion people worldwide will be online.

The United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union is estimating that by the end of this year 2018, 3.9 billion people–or 51.2 percent of the global population–will be using the internet.

The figure for developed countries will total 80.9 percent, with developing countries coming in at 45.3 percent, ITU said. “ITU’s global and regional estimates for 2018 are a pointer to the great strides the world is making towards building a more inclusive global information society,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU’s Secretary-General, in a statement.

By the end of 2018, we will surpass the 50/50 milestone for Internet use. This represents an important step towards a more inclusive global information society. However, far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy. We must encourage more investment from the public and private sectors and create a good environment to attract investments, and support technology and business innovation so that the digital revolution leaves no one offline,” he said.

The UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that 3.9 billion people, or 51.2 percent of the global population, will be online by the end of 2018 – meaning the halfway point was reached at the beginning of December.

The 50 percent figure has widely been seen as a watershed moment at which the internet, once an arcane mechanism used primarily by tech-savvy academics, becomes a technology used by the majority of human beings.

The International Telecommunication Union, originally the International Telegraph Union, is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.

Internet usage in developing countries reported being surging upward.

The report finds access to and use of information and communication technologies around the world is trending upwards. It notes most internet users are in developed countries, with more than 80 percent of their populations online. But it says internet use is steadily growing in developing countries, increasing from 7.7 percent in 2005 to 45.3 percent this year.

The International Telecommunication Union says Africa is the region with the strongest growth, where the percentage of people using the internet has increased from just over two percent in 2005 to nearly 25 percent in 2018.

According to the ITU, the lowest growth rates, it says, are in Europe and the Americas, with the lowest usage found in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mobile access to the internet is becoming predominant.

In addition to data on internet usage, newly released statistics show mobile access to basic telecommunication services is becoming more predominant. ITU Senior Statistician, Esperanza Magpantay says access to higher speed mobile and fixed broadband also is growing.

So, there is almost 96 percent of the population who are now covered by mobile population signal of which 90 percent are covered by 3G access. So, this is a high figure, and this helps explain why we have this 51 percent of the population now using the internet,” she said.

With the growth in mobile broadband, Magpantay says there has been an upsurge in the number of people using the internet through their mobile devices.

The ITU says countries that are hooked into the digital economy do better in their overall economic well-being and competitiveness. Unfortunately, it says the cost of accessing telecommunication networks remains too high and unaffordable for many.

It says prices must be brought down to make the digital economy a reality for the half the world’s people who do not, as yet, use the internet.

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