Three-quarters of the world’s population own a mobile phone

Since mobile phones are the most common gateway to the Internet, the percentage of individuals owning a mobile phone is a good indication of Internet penetration. This is not a one-to-one relation, however: on the one hand, people other than the owner could use the phone to access the Internet (e.g. children occasionally using the phone of a parent), and on the other hand, some mobile owners have a calls-only mobile cellular subscription (i.e. without Internet access), as can be seen from the subscription section above.

Data show that, on average, in every region and every income group except the upper middle income group, the percentage of individuals owning a mobile phone is higher than the percentage of Internet users. Globally, 73 per cent of the population aged 10 and over own a mobile phone in 2022, seven percentage points higher than the percentage of individuals who use the Internet. This gap is closing in all regions, as growth in Internet use has significantly outpaced the growth of mobile phone ownership over the last three years.

In the Americas, CIS and Europe, where Internet penetration exceeds 80 per cent on average, the rate of mobile phone ownership is only marginally higher than Internet use. Elsewhere, the gap is much wider. Thus, in low-income economies mobile phone ownership is almost twice as prevalent as Internet use.

The gender parity gap in mobile phone ownership is comparable with that in Internet use. At the global level, the gender parity score for mobile phone ownership is marginally lower (i.e. skewed against women) than it is for Internet use. As with Internet use, progress has been uneven in the past three years. Women are about 12 per cent less likely to own mobile phones than men – virtually unchanged from 2019. Among those not owning mobile phones, women outnumbered men by 39 per cent in 2022.