Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the underlying data sources. This entry can be cited as:

Julia Murphy and Max Roser (2018) - "Internet". Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

The internet has drastically changed the way we work, spend our leisure time and communicate with one another. It is estimated that the number of internet users worldwide is 3.2 billion (in 2015 – see below).

The rise of the internet as well as the continued growth of access around the world and through different technologies is likely to continue and change communication and how we access information.

I. Empirical View

I.1 Growth of the Internet

The number of Internet users worldwide has skyrocketed since the birth of the World Wide Web. On the 20 December 1990, the world's first website and server went live at CERN. The first ever website was published by the Internet's creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, on 6 August 1991 and in 1993 CERN made the World Wide Web available on a royalty free basis to the public domain. By 1993, there were 14 million Internet users worldwide and 130 websites.

Access to the Internet is almost universal in developed countries and although usage rates are much lower in the developing world, they are increasing. The chart below shows the increasing number of internet users.

I.2 World map of internet access

The map shows the share of the population that is accessing the internet for all countries of the world.

I.3 Increase of mobile phone users

A second development is the use of mobile phones. The map below shows the latest global data – by changing to the chart view you can see that globally we only saw a very slow rise until the the late 1990s and then a dramatically faster increase in mobile device subscriptions since the beginning of the 21st century.

I.4 Broadband access

II. Data Sources

The World Bank- World Development Indicators
  • Data: Total Population (in number of people), Internet Users (per 100 people), Fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions (per 100 people), Mobile cellular subscriptions
  • Geographical Coverage: Worldwide
  • Time Span: Dependent on data set but generally 1980-2014
  • Available at:

Internet and GDP data - McKinsey (2011)

"The great transformer: The impact of the Internet on Economic Growth and Prosperity" McKinsey & Company- McKinsey Global Institute, James Manyika and Charles Roxburgh, October 2011

  • Data: A study on capturing the benefits of the Internet
  • Geographical Coverage: Worldwide
  • Time Span: 1996-2011
  • Available at:

Jobs and the Internet - McKinsey (2011)

"Internet matters: The Net's sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity" Matthieu Pélissié du Rausas, James Manyika, Eric Hazan, Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, Rémi Said for McKinsey & Company, May 2011

  • Data: A report on the Internet's impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity which helps to 'explain the direct link between the Internet and economic vitality'
  • Geographical Coverage: G8 economies and Brazil, China, India, South Korea, and Sweden
  • Time Span: 1996-2011
  • Available at: