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The Digital Divide - Did You Know?

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


  • Mobile cellular is the most popular technology in history, with over 4 billion subscriptions worldwide at the beginning of 2009.

  • In 2008, there were 65 countries in the world with more mobile cellular subscriptions than inhabitants – up from 50 in 2007

  • In 2008 Africa as a whole surpassed the level of penetration achieved by the USA in 1999.

  • Between 2007 and 2008, the number of fixed telephone lines worldwide grew by just 6 million, or under 0.5%. The number of mobile cellular subscriptions grew by 635 million, or 18.8%.

  • By 2008, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions in Africa and the Arab States (449 million) was 40% greater than that in the whole world a decade earlier (318 million).

  • In 2007, Asia added more mobile cellular subscriptions (338 million) than the whole of the rest of the world together (252 million). In 2008 that pattern was reversed, with Asia adding 274 million mobile cellular subscriptions, and the rest of the world together adding 331 million.

  • In 2008, the average low-user monthly cost of a mobile subscription in Sub-Saharan Africa corresponded to more than 20% of the monthly GNI per capita – compared to less than 0.5% in the USA and Canada.


  • By the end of 2008, only 4% of Africans used the Internet, compared to 56% in Europe.

  • In 2008, out of every 10 Internet users in the world:

    • Almost 4 were from G8 countries, home to 13% of the world’s population.

    • More than 3 were from BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), home to 42% of the world’s inhabitants.

    • 2 were from Africa, home to 11% of the world's population.

  • At the end of 2008, the entire African continent – home to over 50 countries and close to a billion people – still had fewer Internet subscribers than France.

  • In 2008, there were more Internet subscribers in the Netherlands (population: 17 million) than in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa (population: 767 million).

  • In 2000, there were more than 70 countries with an Internet penetration of under 1%. By 2007 that figure had dropped to 20 countries, and by 2008 to just 15 countries. Ten of them were in Africa.

  • In 2000, there was no country in the world with an Internet penetration of over 50% (though a few came close). By 2008, there were 45. None of them were in Africa.


  • In 2008, developing countries, with 81% of the global population, accounted for just under 40% of the world’s 406 million fixed broadband Internet subscribers. If China – the largest fixed broadband market in the world – is excluded from the figures, the developing world share drops to 76% of the population and 18% of the fixed broadband Internet subscribers

  • In 2008, the fixed broadband Internet penetration rate was 19.4% in developed nations – over 8 times higher than the 2.4% penetration in developing countries.

  • By the end of 2008, mobile broadband penetration reached 14% in the developed world, compared to less than 1% in developing economies.

  • In 2000, there were roughly 16 million fixed broadband Internet subscribers in the world. By 2008, Poland alone had almost 17 million fixed broadband Internet subscribers.



  • In 2008, there were fewer inhabitants than mobile cellular subscriptions in both Europe (117%) and the CIS countries (107%).

  • Between 2000 and 2008, the regions which made the largest relative improvements in mobile cellular subscriptions were Africa (CAGR 46.9%), the Arab States (47.7%) and the CIS countries (65.9%).


  • In 2000, the Americas region had about 40% of the world’s total Internet users. With roughly-equal populations, North and South America had widely-differing Internet penetration rates, with over 40% in the US and Canada and 4% in the south. By 2008, South America had an Internet penetration of 31%, while the US and Canada averaged 71%.

  • In 2008, roughly 65% of the Internet users in Asia were from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea; these three countries account for less than 40% of the regional population.


  • In 2008, the fixed broadband Internet subscriber penetration rate was 24% in Australia, compared to 54% for mobile broadband subscriptions.

  • In 2008, Africa had a fixed broadband Internet subscriber penetration rate of 0.09%, or just nine subscribers per ten thousand inhabitants.

  • In three years (1996-1998) 276 million people signed up for a mobile cellular telephone. Compare that figure to the 243 million main telephone lines that were installed in the first one hundred years of telephone history.









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Contact for this page : External Affairs and Corporate Communication Division
Updated : 2009-10-03