Digital Divide: Updated Numbers

Posted on November 21, 2010

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In Andrew Chadwick’s chapter “Access, Inclusion and the Digital Divide,” he puts forth many reasons to explain the digital divide, from education to literacy, to age, income and race. All of his arguments and the statistics he illustrates put forth very real reasons why there continues to be a substantial difference between those that have access and use the internet and those that do not. As many of them are based on 5 to 10 year-old numbers and the rates which information technology and access changes quickly, here are some updated numbers from the CIA’s The World Factbook:


Top 40 Countries by internet usage
Top 40 Countries by internet usage

From The World Bank, World Development Indicators via Google Public Data:

I selected countries semi-randomly from the top and the bottom – interesting to see where China lies when its number of users are compared to their total population.

And more from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)‘s

One major component of current global information and communication technology that is missing from Chadwick’s chapter is the spread of mobile phones and SMS. In fact, mobile phones are an important accessible and affordable point of access to both connect with others and to the internet; their importance illustrated by their place in the free report from ITU which puts mobile access and SMS numbers before internet access and statistics of computer ownership:

– Mobile cellular growth is slowing worldwide. In developed countries, the mobile market isreaching saturation levels with on average 116 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants at the end of2010 and a marginal growth of 1.6% from 2009-2010.

– At the same time, the developing world is increasing its share of mobile subscriptions from 53%of total mobile subscriptions at the end of 2005 to 73% at the end of 2010.

– In the developing world, mobile cellular penetration rates will reach 68% at the endof 2010 – mainly driven by the Asia and Pacifi c region. India and China alone are expected to addover 300 million mobile subscriptions in 2010.

– In the African region, penetration rates will reach an estimated 41% at the end of 2010 (comparedto 76% globally) leaving a signifi cant potential for growth.

SMS Triples in Three Years


– The total number of SMS sent globally tripled between 2007 and 2010, from an estimated 1.8 trillion to a staggering 6.1 trillion. In other words, close to 200,000 text messages are sent everysecond.

– Assuming an average cost of USD 0.07 per SMS, in 2010 SMS traffic is generating an estimated USD 812,000 every minute (or around USD 14,000 every second).

– In 2009, SMS revenue accounted for 12% of China’s largest mobile operator’s total revenue.

– The Philippines and the United States combined accounted for 35% of all SMS sent in 2009.

Two billion people on the Internet…… but too few in Africa

– The number of Internet users has doubled between 2005 and 2010.

– In 2010, the number of Internet users will surpass the two billion mark, of which 1.2 billion will bein developing countries.

– A number of countries, including Estonia, Finland and Spain have declared access to the Internetas a legal right for citizens.

– With more than 420 million Internet users, China is the largest Internet market in the world.

– While 71% of the population in developed countries are online, only 21% of the population indeveloping countries are online. By the end of 2010, Internet user penetration in Africa will reach9.6%, far behind both the world average (30%) and the developing country average (21%).

Connecting Homes


– While in developing countries 72.4% of households have a TV, only 22.5% have a computer andonly 15.8% have Internet access (compared to 98%, 71% and 65.6% respectively in developedcountries).

– At the end of 2010, half a billion households worldwide (or 29.5%) will have access to the Internet.

– In some countries, including the Republic of Korea, Netherlands and Sweden, more than 80% ofhouseholds have Internet access, almost all of them through a broadband connection.

– The number of people having access to the Internet at home has increased from 1.4 billion in2009 to almost 1.6 billion in 2010.

The ITU shows us that more people across the globe are finding ways to access information, but these numbers still illustrate the existence of  the digital divide (too few in Africa).

And finally, some US-based data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Mobile Access 2010:

Six in ten American adults are now wireless internet users, and mobile data applications have grown more popular over the last year.

From Pew Internet & American Life Project, Mobile Access 2010

From the Pew Internet && American Life Project, Mobile Access 2010

From the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Mobile Access 2010

From the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Mobile Access 2010

Are cell phones, cheaper laptops and wireless internet helping to close the digital divide in the United States?

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