Internet Users Boom to Nearly 3 Billion as Mobile Expands

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November 26, 2014

Internet use has boomed from 2 billion in 2009 to nearly 3 billion in 2014, accessed by approximately 40 percent of the world in part thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive mobile devices, a new report shows.

November 26, 2014

Internet use has boomed from 2 billion in 2009 to nearly 3 billion in 2014, accessed by approximately 40 percent of the world in part thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive mobile devices, a new report shows.

Members of the public use their mobile devices to take photographs of Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at a walk about in Brisbane, April 19, 2014.

The number of Internet users spiked 6.6 percent from 2.7 billion people in 2013 to 2.87 billion in 2014, according to the report published on Monday by the International Telecommunications Union, which is a United Nations agency. Developing nations like the United Arab Emirates have made great strides towards online access, but wealthy individuals in developed regions like Europe and the Americas still account for the majority of Web users. Africa is expanding its telecom connections but only 19 percent of people on that continent are using the Internet, according to the report.

The ITU hopes to connect another 1.5 billion people to the Internet by 2020. Mobile devices have made it easier to access the Internet in regions where there is not much telecom infrastructure, but there is more work to be done. Cell phone signals have reached more than 87 per cent of rural areas around the world, but more than 450 million people still live in areas that are not covered by a mobile signal, according to the ITU’s latest data on rural areas from 2012.

There will be 7 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2014, the agency estimates, but that includes people with multiple subscriptions as not everyone the planet owns a mobile device yet.

The U.S. invented the Internet but has lagged behind Europe in expanding access to it. The U.S. ranked 14th on the report’s index on communication development, with Denmark in first place, South Korea in second place followed by a series of northern European countries and the UK. North and South America still have 9 million people in rural areas living outside the reach of mobile signals also, compared with only 3 million without cellular access in Europe.

To remedy this companies like Apple are trying to design lower cost devices for regions like Africa, including the iPhone 5C. Apple helped fuel the smartphone revolution with launch of its first iPhone in 2007 but its phones can cost around $600 without a contract – well out of the price range of some in the developing world. Technology companies including Google and Facebook are also working on projects to spread Internet signals to rural areas.

There is a dark side to the growth of Internet access, as it provides a new way to steal personal information and business data. The number of detected security incidents reported by companies jumped 48 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a recent report published by Pricewaterhouse Coopers business research firm. Security incidents jumped an estimated 66 percent each year since 2009, the group adds.

Poor cybersecurity may be due in part to the lack of leadership at companies, as the majority of firms responding to the survey said the board of directors at their businesses were not involved enough in securing their networks. That lack of attention had dangerous consequences during the 2013 holiday shopping season when millions of Americans became victims of data theft that targeted payments at businesses like Target and Neiman Marcus.


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