The developing world is driving the global surge in Internet and mobile connectivity, according to the most recent statistics from the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

There will be three billion Internet users around the world by the end of this year, the ITU says. Two-thirds of those users will be in the developing world. Meanwhile the number of global mobile broadband subscriptions will reach 2.3 billion, half from the developing world.

“The newly released ICT figures confirm once again that information and communication technologies continue to be the key drivers of the information society,” said ITU secretary-general Hamadoun I. Touré.

The Internet usage figures represent an overall Internet-user penetration of 40 per cent globally – 78 per cent in developed countries and 32 per cent in developing countries. The ITU says more than 90 per cent of the people who are not yet using the Internet are from the developing world.

In Africa, almost 20 per cent of the population will be online by year’s end, up from 10 per cent in 2010. In the Americas, almost two thirds of the population will be using the Internet by then, the second highest penetration rate after Europe.

Europe’s Internet penetration will reach 75 per cent by the end of the year. In the Asia-Pacific region one-third of the population will be online, accounting for around 45 per cent of the world’s Internet users.

Forty-four per cent of the world’s households will have Internet access by the end of the year. Thirty-one per cent of households in developing countries will be connected to the Internet, compared with 78 per cent in developed countries. “The analysis shows that household Internet access is approaching saturation levels in developed countries,” the ITU says.

“Mobile-cellular subscriptions will reach almost seven billion by end 2014, and 3.6 billion of these will be in the Asia-Pacific region,” the ITU says. “The increase is mostly due to growth in the developing world where mobile-cellular subscriptions will account for 78 per cent of the world’s total.”

By end 2014, fixed-broadband penetration will have reached almost 10 per cent globally by the end of the year. These figures skew heavily toward the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. The developing world, Africa in particular, lags far behind.

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