Nearly Half The World is Online

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Forty-seven percent of the world's population is online, according to a new report from the United Nation's International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

At this point, there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions around the world as there are people on Earth. But that doesn't everyone on the planet has a mobile phone, since many people have multiple subscriptions or devices.

The offline population — some 3.9 billion people around the world — is "disproportionately female, elderly, less educated, lower income, and rural," the report notes.

But with the resources and desire, almost everyone could be connected. Ninety-five percent of the global population lives in an area that is covered by a mobile cell signal. But while most people have access to Internet services, many don't actually use them, largely due to high prices.

"To bring more people online, it is important to focus on reducing overall socio-economic inequalities," ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said in a statement. "Education and income levels are strong determinants of whether or not people use the Internet."

Those with higher levels of education are also getting more out of the Internet. They use advanced services including e-commerce and online banking, where as those with lower levels of education and income, primarily use the Internet for communication and entertainment.

"This suggests that many people are yet to benefit fully from the opportunities brought by the Internet," the agency said.

The report also points out that many people around the world still don't own or use a mobile phone. In developing countries, close to 20 percent of the population, on average, doesn't have one.

"It is the cost of the handset, rather than the cost of the service itself, which is often reported as the main barrier to owning a mobile phone," the ITU said. "Another important barrier is the lack of perceived benefits."

In communities with low mobile uptake, people often view these devices as unnecessary, since fewer community members are also using this mode of communication. Others simply don't have the skills necessary for accessing the Internet through a mobile device.

On a positive note, mobile cell prices continued to decrease last year (based on sending 100 SMS and making 30 calls per month). The price drop was steeper than in previous years, largely thanks to the increased availability of prepaid packages that bundle messaging and local calls. The least developed countries saw a 20 percent drop in prices, the strongest decrease in five years.

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