Future World: Internet use reaches 5 billion worldwide
The number of Internet users has now reached almost 5 billion - equivalent to the entire world's population in 1987. This compares with 1.7 billion users in 2010 and only 360 million in 2000.*
Vast numbers of people in developing countries now have access to the web, thanks to a combination of plummeting costs and exponential technology improvements. This includes laptops, smartphones and tablet devices that can be bought for only a few tens of dollars, together with explosive growth in mobile networks. Even some of the most remote populations on Earth can take advantage of the web thanks to the infrastructure now in place.
Broadband speeds have continued to accelerate. In the USA, a project known as the National Broadband Plan is coming to fruition. This gives nearly 100 million Americans access to home broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps. Connections of 1 Gbps are also present in the vast majority of schools, universities, libraries, hospitals and government buildings. Broadband is now available to essentially the entire population. By 2020, the USA has become one of the leaders in mobile innovation, with one of the most extensive wireless networks of any country. There is a massive increase in the broadcasting of wireless Internet and broadband multimedia.
In Australia, one of the world's most ambitious upgrades â€“ the National Broadband Network â€“ is nearing completion. Vast extensions to the fibre-optic cable networks are being undertaken, with the result that 93% of the population has access to 1 Gbps transfer speeds by 2021. Australia rises to be one of the leading digital economies, with many new jobs and opportunities created. The remaining 7% of households are able to utilise two new satellites for a minimum speed of 12 Mbps.
South Korea - one of the most technologically advanced countries in Asia - has already had nationwide gigabit transfer speeds since 2013. It has since strengthened its broadband network, expanding it even further. China has also laid down a national broadband network, another step in its path to becoming a developed nation. The majority of developed and developing nations now have greatly increased Internet access compared to what existed before.
However, there is still the problem of a "digital divide" in some places, with rural areas particularly affected. In the United Kingdom, for example, while more than half of users now have access to 100 Mbps or faster, around 10% of the population is limited to substantially slower connections.