1. Availability

3.2bn online

3.2bn people had internet access at the end of 2015, with 4.1bn people not yet connected.

The chart below shows how internet penetration has increased fairly steadily since 2006.

internet global penetration

The unconnected

90% of the world’s unconnected population live in developing countries.

Furthermore, those in rural areas of developing countries are 70% less likely to be connected than those in urban areas.

Availability of internet is also impacted by culture, with the majority of the unconnected being women.

Mobile networks 

3G coverage is required for most internet services and is available to 78% of people in 2015, up from 34% in 2009.

Though availability of 3G in developed countries was at 98% in 2014, this figure was ony 69% in developing countries.

This disparity is illustrated eloquently by the map below showing mobile networks used to access the Facebook Android app.

map of network tech used to access facebook on android

Rural coverage 

People in rural sites in developing countries, as stated above, are 70% less likely to have internet access than their urban counterparts.

This is down to the comparitive difficulty and expense of serving rural areas, with the need for diesel generators, satellite backhaul technology and repeater sites.

The chart below shows how much more expensive it is in India and Nigeria to service remote sites.

Improvements including solar modules, Facebook and Google’s much publicised drones and balloons, or low earth orbit satellites (such as those trialled by SpaceX) are all earmarked to increase 3G coverage.

National broadband plans of varying efficacy have been set up in almost 150 countries, with developing countries often looking for investment from operators.

cost of rural mobile coverage

2. Affordability

Affordability is the second barrier to connectivity cited by Facebook’s report.

Average expenditure on mobile internet given as a proportion of household income is 1.8% in developed countries. In developing countries that figure rises to 3.8%.

Increase in income and decrease in mobile broadband pricing had a big impact on mobile internet penetration in 2014. 

An average 12% reduction in 500mb mobile broadband prices combined with a 7% increase in household incomes led to a further 500m people who could afford it.

3. Relevance

Perhaps the most interesting barrier to internet access is the relevance of online content. 

More than 2bn people do not have access to sufficient content in their own language.

Only half of the world’s population have access to encyclopaedic content in their first language (this rises to 60% when including a second language).

The fascinating chart below shows the number of languages catered for by various websites and software. 

languages avail on digital platforms 

4. Readiness

The fourth barrier to internet access is defined as readiness. This section of the Facebook report concentrates on factors such as literacy, awareness and equality.

ITU estimates suggest women are 11% less likely than men to use the internet. In less developed countries, this figure is 28%.

For more stats, see Econsultancy’s Internet Stats Compendium or our weekly blog roundups.