Internet users globally grew by 300 million to 3.2 billion at the end of 2015, partly due to affordable data and rising global income, says a report by social media giant Facebook. "At the end of 2014, there were 2.9 billion Internet users globally. By the end of 2015, this figure was predicted to have reached 3.2 billion, 43 per cent of the world's population," said the report titled 'State of Connectivity 2015' on Global Access Internet.
"During 2014, lower prices for data and rising global incomes have made mobile data packages of 500 MB per month affordable to 500 million more people," it said. The highest estimates of 3G and 4G coverage suggest that 1.6 billion people live outside mobile broadband coverage, an improvement compared to 2 billion at the end of 2014, the report said. "Most people connect to the Internet using mobile devices, which are the only way to get online in many parts of the world. An estimated 2.7 billion people did not have mobile phone subscriptions in 2015," it added.
Despite this progress, the developing world is a long way behind as far as connectivity is concerned and even as urban areas are connected, many rural areas are not, the report said. "In many countries, women use the Internet far less than men. And even if the entire world lived within range of the necessary infrastructure, nearly a billion people remain illiterate or otherwise unable to benefit from online content," the US-headquartered company opined.
In order to improve connectivity, however, committed players need better, more accurate data on the state of global connectivity. Further work is required to develop global standards for collecting, reporting and distributing data related to connectivity, the report added.
Facebook said it is collaborating with the center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University to validate detailed maps of population distribution produced for 20 countries using new machine learning techniques. When released, these maps will be free to use by any government, operator, entrepreneur or researcher and will guide data-driven decision making, the report added.