United Nations  International Telecommunication Union  




What’s the state of ICT access around the world?

As the UN specialized agency for telecommunications, ITU collects the most comprehensive range of statistics on ICT penetration, accessibility and use.

These pages are designed to provide accredited journalists with a range of interesting comparisons and statistical charts for use in their articles and programmes.

All charts are also available in hi-res downloadable format, for use as illustrative materials. To download hi-res pictures, please "right click" on the link and choose save target as.

The Digital Divide at a glance

Over the last 10 years, the digital divide has been shrinking in terms of numbers of fixed phone lines, mobile subscribers, and Internet users.

Nonetheless, there remains a crucial gap. ITU estimates that some 800’000 villages – representing around one billion people worldwide – still lack connection to any kind of information and communication technology.

In 2004, the developing world had 4 times fewer fixed telephones than the developed world.

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In 2004, the developing world had 4 times fewer mobile subscribers per 100 people than the developed world.

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In 2004, the developed world still had 8 times the Internet user penetration rate of the developing world.

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Did you know that . . . ?

Figures can paint a striking picture of the ICT landscape around the world. ITU provides some interesting snapshots, drawn from its 2004 ICT World Telecommunication Indicators Database.


  • In 2004, less than 3 out of every 100 Africans use the Internet, compared with an average of 1 out of every 2 inhabitants of the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US).
  • There are roughly around the same total number of Internet users in the G8 countries as in the whole rest of the world combined:
    • 429 million Internet users in G8
    • 444 million Internet users in non-G8
  • The G8 countries are home to just 15% of the world’s population - but almost 50% of the world’s total Internet users.
  • It is estimated that top 20 countries in terms of Internet bandwidth are home to roughly 80% of all Internet users worldwide.
  • There are more than 8 times as many Internet users in the US than on the entire African continent.
  • There are more than three times as many Internet users in Japan as on the entire African continent.
  • There are more than twice as many Internet users in Germany than on the entire African continent.
  • The entire African continent - home to over 50 countries - has fewer Internet users than France alone.
  • There are more Internet users in Seoul (Republic of Korea), than all of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa.
  • There are more Internet users in London than in the whole of Pakistan.
  • Switzerland, host of the first World Summit on the Information Society, has five times the Internet penetration rate of Tunisia, host of the second Summit.
  • Discrepancies in international Internet bandwidth - the critical infrastructure that dictates the speed at which websites in other countries can be accessed - are nothing short of astounding. Tiny Denmark has more than twice the international Internet bandwidth that the whole of Latin American and the Caribbean combined.
  • The high cost of international bandwidth is often a major constraint, with developing countries often having to pay the full cost of a link to a hub in a developed country. More than 40 countries have less than 10Mbps of international Internet bandwidth, whereas in Belgium, a 9Mbps ADSL high-speed Internet package is available for just EUR 60 a month.
  • There are still 30 countries with an Internet penetration of less than 1%.


  • The 14% of the world’s population that lives in the G8 countries accounts for 34% of the world’s total mobile users.


  • Of Africa’s 26 million fixed lines, over 75% are found in just 6 of the 55 African nations.
  • Africa has an average of 3 fixed lines per 100 people.
  • The Americas region has an average of 34 fixed lines per 100 people.
  • Europe and the CIS has an average of 40 fixed lines per 100 people.


Regional profiles


In 2004, Africa accounted for 13% of the world’s population, but for only 3.7% of all fixed and mobile subscribers worldwide.

Africa has by far the world’s lowest penetration of fixed lines, with a continental average of around 3 main lines per 100 people.

In Africa, there are still over 20 countries which have a national average of fewer than 1 main line serving every 100 people.

In 2004 Africa had close to 100 million total telephone subscribers, 76 million of which were mobile subscribers. Africa has the highest ratio of mobile to total telephone subscribers of any world region, and has been dubbed "the least wired region in the world".

Africa has its own digital divide. For example, Egypt has 17 times the fixed line penetration of Nigeria. While sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa), has an average teledensity of one percent, North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia) has a comparable average of ten percent. Almost three quarters of all Africa’s fixed lines are found in just 6 of the continent’s 55 countries.

Of the estimated 800’000 villages without any kind of connection to ICTs, more than half are in Africa.

Africa’s mobile cellular growth rate has been the highest of any region over the past 5 years, averaging close to 60% year on year. The total number of mobile subscribers continent-wide at end 2004 was 76 million.

In 2004, some 25 million new mobile subscribers were added on the African continent – a figure almost equivalent to the total number of telephone subscribers (fixed and mobile) in Africa in 1996.

African had some 22 million Internet users in 2004, for an Internet penetration of just 3%. Europe’s Internet penetration is 11 times higher.

Global fixed lines comparison Global mobile comparison Global Internet comparison Africa fixed line comparison Africa fixed line vs mobile uptake
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The Americas has its own North-South divide: the United States and Canada have roughly twice the mobile penetration rate, 4 times the fixed line

 penetration rate, and 6 times the Internet penetration rate of the countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The America’s region’s three largest fixed telephone networks – in the US, Canada and Brazil – account for more than 80% of all fixed lines on the two continents.

The US has more than twice as many Internet users than the remaining 42 countries in the America region put together.

Surprisingly, the Americas region has the world’s lowest number of mobile subscribers as a ratio of total telephone subscribers, at just 55%. This is because of the relatively high teledensity (60%) and relatively low mobile penetration rate in North America (60%). By way of comparison, mobile penetration has already surpassed 100% in several European countries.

Global fixed lines comparison Global mobile comparison Global Internet comparison Americas Digital Divide Americas mobile comparison, North vs South vs Caribbean
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The world’s most diverse region, Asia-Pacific’s 41 economies span 30% of the world’s land mass, encompass 3’500 languages, and are home to 57% of the world’s population (or 3.6 billion people).

Nowhere is the digital divide more pronounced. Internet penetration ranges from below 1% in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Lao, to above 65% in countries like Australia and the Republic of Korea. Mobile penetration ranges from below 1% in countries like Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Papua New Guinea to 90% or more in countries like Hong Kong (China) and Singapore.

China remains the region’s powerhouse. During 2004, the country added an average 5.4 million new mobile subscribers every month.

China already represents almost 50% of the entire Asian mobile market in terms of subscriber numbers, yet domestic penetration still hovers at around just 25%. That translates into another one billion more potential mobile customers.

India has overtaken China to become one of the region’s fastest-growing mobile markets, with growth rates of over 90% per annum every year since 1999. With just total mobile penetration rates of just over 4%, potential for growth is enormous.

The Republic of Korea leads the world in broadband penetration, with high-speed lines serving more than a quarter of the population.

Global fixed lines comparison Global mobile comparison Global Internet comparison
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Europe leads the world in terms of mobile penetration, with over 570 million subscribers and a mobile penetration of over 70%.  This compares with 9% mobile penetration in Africa, 42% in the Americas, and 19% in Asia Pacific.

By the end of 2004, almost all countries Europe had more mobile subscribers than fixed phone lines.

Strong growth continues to be the rule in Central and Eastern European countries, where 2004 mobile penetration levels now rival those of the west. A few examples: Bulgaria (60%), Croatia (58%), Czech Republic (105%), Hungary (89%), Poland (60%), Slovak Republic (79%), and Slovenia (87%).

While Central and Eastern European mobile penetration levels are catching up to those in Western Europe, its Internet penetration level still lags behind, at some 20% (compared with almost 50% in Western Europe).

Russia is Europe’s fastest growing mobile market, with the number of cellular subscribers more than doubling during 2004 from 36.5 million to 74.4 million. During 2004, Russia overtook Germany, France, Spain and the UK to become the largest mobile market in Europe.

Despite Russia’s impressive subscriber numbers, it has its own digital divide, with the vast majority of subscribers located in large urban centres.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have succeeded in leapfrogging to new technologies fast, with Internet and mobile penetration rates already nearing 71% and 95% respectively of the average penetration in Western Europe.

The Netherlands is ranked third worldwide in terms of broadband penetration, behind the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong (China). The top 20 economies worldwide in terms of broadband penetration now include twelve European economies.

Global fixed lines comparison Global mobile comparison Global Internet comparison Mobile Penetration Europe & CIS 2003 Europe & CIS Digital Divide, fixed, mobile, Internet
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ITU World Telecommunication Indicators Database

ITU’s World Telecommunication Indicators Database is recognized worldwide as the most authoritative, impartial and up-to-date collection of statistics on all aspects of the ICT industry.

To find the latest statistics on a range of ICT Indicators, click here.

ITU ICT Reports

Journalists following the World Summit on the Information Society can access a wide range of ITU reports in PDF format.

Please note that unfortunately not all reports are available in all languages.



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Updated : 2005-12-02