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By the end of this year 40 per cent of the world will be on the internet, with 30 per cent of today's youth never knowing a world without IP.

That's according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which, when it's not secretly plotting for control of cyberspace, counts up some figures and bundles them into an annual report on the state of the Information Society.

This year that report shows mobile subscriptions approaching 6.8bn, almost enough for one per person on the planet; though, in fact, these are clustered in counties where having multiple subscriptions makes sense. It's often those same countries where mobile broadband is now more affordable than fixed, which explains why 2.1bn people are getting the internet wirelessly*.

Youtube Video

The rules of the internet oblige you to play for 30 seconds with the sound on, apparently.

Many of those subscribers are getting a fixed connection too, emphasising the global divergence. The ITU points out that the top 30 countries in the ICT Development Index of skills are all bracketed as "high income", which the ITU would like to see interpreted to show how connectivity leads to education, which in turn leads to income – but this sequence could equally be reversed.

When it comes to IT skills the UK sneaked into the top ten this year, up from eleventh place in 2012, though (South) Korea continues to top the ranking for the third year running.

At the other end of the scale we have 1.2bn households around the world without any internet access at all, 90 per cent of which are (unsurprisingly) in the developing world. The numbers are climbing, everywhere, so the trend is to a more-connected society even if we're not all getting there at the same speed.

The ITU is a branch of the United Nations, though it predates its parent by a considerable margin. Mostly the ITU's general secretary travels the world trying to encourage, and facilitate, investment in communications infrastructure, mostly by convincing companies that it can be profitable.

Documents like this are intended to demonstrate that having access to the internet is, or should be, a normal part of 21st century life. The ITU got that access enshrined as a human right by the UN, but we're still a long way from extending connectivity to those other four billion people who need it. ®

Bootnote

* Some of them quite slowly, but when Cat Videos are poised to take 75 per cent of all online advertising they'll surely want to be involved.

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