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

The internet is changing the way we work, spend our leisure time and communicate with one another. It is estimated that the number of internet users worldwide reached 3.4 billion in 2016.

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 20 December 1990 when the world's first website went live at the physics lab CERN in Switzerland. As the chart below shows the number of internet users increased to 44 million in 1995 and 413 million in the year 2000. Since then the growth of internet users has accelerated and reached 3.4 billion in 2016.

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.

In richer countries more than two thirds of the population are typically online. And although usage rates are much lower in the developing world, they are increasing.

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 the metric set but mostly from 1980 or 1990 onwards
  • Available at: