More than half of the global population has internet access. This is exciting news, especially considering that just ten years ago, only about 25 percent of the world was online. We probably don’t have to spell out the joys of mass connectivity—it creates jobs, lets rural businesses flourish, helps us communicate better, gives us a window into places we would never visit, etc., etc.
But before we start patting ourselves on the back for the strides we’ve made as a planet, it’s important to take note of who is accessing the internet. More than fifty percent is a lot, but it’s certainly not everyone, and it includes the Earth’s most privileged, according to Mozilla’s 2019 Internet Health Report.
Let’s start with the highly connected places. It likely won’t come as much of a surprise that Europe boasts the most internet users, leading with an impressive 79.6 percent. The Commonwealth of Independent States, a region including Russia and some surrounding countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Kazakhstan, has 71.3 percent of its inhabitants online, and the Americas follow, where 69.6 are connected to the web.
Just over half the people living in Arab states are online, while just under half are in Asia Pacific. Only 24.4 percent of people in Africa have access to the web.
The internet access gap between Africa and Europe is huge, and it’s reflected in the gap between developed countries and developing ones. About 80 percent of people across developed nations can surf the web, but roughly only half as many can in the developing world. This is a big deal—more than 80 percent of the total global population lives in developing nations.
Now let’s reconsider that original statistic, the one that shows 51.2 percent of the world’s population is online. What kind of world is that? One with a major divide between the rich and the poor. And that divide, according Mozilla’s report, has stayed stable for the past 10 years.