New figures published by the International Telecommunications Union show that the total number of Internet users in the world reached 2 billion in 2010 (PDF). The figure represents an increase from 1.86 billion last year, and doubling in the total number of Internet users worldwide since 2005. However, while 1.2 billion of those Internet users are in developing nations, the ITU notes that only 21 percent of the population of developing nations is online, and in Africa the picture is even bleaker: throughout the continent, only 9.6 percent of the population is online.
According to the ITU, the number of fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions broke the half-billion mark for the first time, with an estimated 555 billion fixed broadband connections in use around the world, up from 471 million last year. Fixed broadband in developing nations is still low: where developed nations see an average of 24.6 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 people, the number drops to 4.4 subscriptions per 100 people in developing nations, and in Africa the penetration rate in below one percent. Overall, countries with the highest proportion of fixed broadband subscriptions are in Europe, followed by the Americas, former Soviet states, and Asia-Pacific nations.
Globally, the ITU also finds that pricing for wired broadband connections fell by 42 percent between 2008 and 2009, but there are still massive differences between nations, with costs in developing countries on being on average nearly seven times higher than developed nations.
However, perhaps the most important part of the ITU’s report is the adoption of mobile technology. According to the ITU, 90 percent of the world’s population has access to mobile services (including 80 percent of people in rural areas), and by the end of 2010 there were an estimated 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide, including 940 million that subscribed to 3G services.