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Asia home to half of the world's internet users

01 Apr 2020

Asia accounts for almost half of all internet users in the world, and more people are turning to the internet as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to force many countries into lockdown.

New data from learnbonds.com suggests that Asia has 2.3 billion internet users, which equated to 50.3% of the world’s internet user population.

“Although Asia accounts for the highest number of global internet users, this varies depending on the country. Countries such as China and India have high populations that are now accessing the internet largely through mobile phones. In general, the continent is witnessing strong economic growth, affluence, and the need for information which are acting as catalysts for the high users,” the report notes.

Europe is the second most popular place for internet use, accounting for 15.9% of the world’s population. Africa (11.5%), Latin America/Caribbean (10.1%), North America (7.6%), the Middle East (3.9%), and Australia/Oceania (0.6%) follow.

You may think that North America would feature higher on the list – and while it has only the fifth highest number of internet users, it comes out on top for the highest internet penetration. 

Internet penetration rates correspond to the percentage of the total population of a given country or region that uses the internet. 

North America’s ‘internet freedom’ or lack of internet restrictions are just some of the factors that contribute to its high penetration rate. Telecommunications infrastructure also helps significantly.

Smartphone use has been beneficial for internet penetration because they are often easier to access than desktop or laptop computers. The report suggests that smartphones will help boost internet penetration due to improved mobile internet connection speeds, and other developments.

"Moving into the second quarter of 2020, global internet users might increase following the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The internet is now being used at a rate never experienced before,” the report says.

That is because millions of people are working from home, governments are using the internet to communicate with their citizens, and many community groups are now streaming their services online.

There are still more people who don’t have internet access, though – more than three billion people face barriers including education, income, geography, and digital literacy. Africa is a key example of all of these factors, and it also has the world’s lowest internet penetration rates.

The report suggests that more regions need to improve their infrastructure, devices, data plans, and ways to increase digital literacy if they are to achieve higher internet penetration rates.