National Numeracy Network > NNN Blog > Growth of the Internet

Growth of the Internet

Nathan Grawe
published Mar 15, 2014

This news story announces US plans to give up its central role in administering the internet. That got me wondering who in the world (literally!) uses the internet. UNData provides the answer, with a graph designed by Drastic Data. [Note: The Drastic Data site includes a link to the UN data and also allows you to re-cast the data in percentage terms. In case you are wondering, the UN internet data are reported by national statistical offices, so these statistics are likely of widely varying quality.]

The image makes two things clear:

1) Growth has been dramatic–though not literally exponential. We are apparently around 1 billion users, increasing at a pace of about 100 million users per year. At this rate we won't have the entire world online until the end of the 21st century (assuming the world population grows to approximately 9 billion and then stabilizes). Of course, because the last adopters will likely be harder to draw online due to poverty, we probably won't get anywhere near that many users.

2) Until 1997, the US made up more than half of internet users. Since then we have fallen to only 20% of the internet market.

3) Despite the US's decreasing role, we remain the dominant internet user. It looks like European users have only just recently risen equal US users. So, while "the rest of the world" has long overtaken the number of US users, no other homogeneous political group has matched the US use until just recently. Perhaps this explains why the pressure to shift internet control out of the US has taken so long to build considerable pressure.

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