According to the UN, 2019 begins with more than half of the world online. Internet access is more present in Europe and on the American Continent. However, in the past decade, it's been spreading more in developing countries

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency specialized in information and communication technologies, the world started 2019 with 3.9 billion people online. That’s 51.2% of global population. This is the first time over half of the world is online.

This milestone is the result of a decade of meaningful improvements in internet access around the world – mostly in developing countries. According to the ITU, the increase in internet access to the population of developed countries was exceptional: It jumped from 51.3% in 2005 to 80.9% in 2018. In developing countries, on the other hand, the increase was proportionally bigger: from 7.7% in 2005 to 45.3% by the end of 2018.

From a regional perspective, the most noticeable increase was in Africa, where internet access went from 2.1% in 2005 to 24.4% in 2018. Nowadays, 79.6% of Europe has internet access, as well as 69.6% of all the American continent, 54.7% of the Arab States, and 47% of the Asia-Pacific region.

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The same data says that nearly half of the residences in the world have some level of broadband internet access through the computer (in 2005, the index was around 25%). However, the gap between developing countries (36.3%) and developed countries (83.2%) is still huge.

Regarding cell phones, the ITU estimates that over 5 billion broadband internet subscriptions already exist – in comparison to the 268 million, in 2007. However, the mobile phone network covers 96% of the inhabited global territory, while the mobile internet network covers 90%. The UN report states that the expansion of the smartphone market is fundamental to greatly expand internet access.

Internet access in Brazil

The ICT Residences research of 2017, provided by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (, states that around 27 million Brazilian residences (39%) don’t have any kind of internet access, while a little over 42 million residences have access to broadband or are connected through a mobile device.

In the upper-class population households, 99% are connected, as well as 93% of the upper-middle class, and 69% of the middle-class. However, lower-middle class and lower-class residences don’t go over 30%.

Information is a fundamental Right, says the UN

Since its foundation, the UN believes that access to information is a human fundamental right, and its democratization must be established, according to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

“Access to the telecommunications networks has been expanding, mainly in mobile connection.  However, accessibility still must be prioritized to make the digital economy a reality to all of us”, affirmed Brahima Sanou, director of ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau.

To Houlin Zhao, ITU’s Secretary-General, the regional and global estimate indicate the evolution of an all-encompassing project of turning the world into a more welcoming place, regarding access to information. “It represents a crucial step towards a more information-welcoming global society. However, many people around the world are still waiting to have the benefits of the digital economy”, Says Houlin Zhao. “We should encourage the investment of the public and private sectors, and support technology and the business, so the digital revolution may include everyone”.

Content published in February 5, 2019

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