Seven Key Internet Trends in 2016

For over two decades, the Internet has transformed humanity in ways that were barely anticipated before then. Here are seven trends to keep on eye in 2016:

Trend 1: A Major Threshold Approaches

We will soon cross the threshold when over half of humanity has some form of Internet connection at home. Only around 46% of the global population has an Internet connection of any kind at home, and the pace at which new users are getting connected has slowed in recent years.  Nonetheless, we should cross the halfway mark well before 2020 and perhaps even as soon as 2018.

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Trend 2: Asia Dominates, and Watch Out for India

Asia has come to dominate the Internet in terms of user numbers, and India’s population is getting connected at a very fast rate. China, of course, represents a huge fraction of Asian users, a number estimated at over 721,435,000. However, those in India are getting connected at a much faster rate at the moment (an estimate 30.5% change in the last year, compared with just 2.2% in China).

Trend 3: LDCs Continue to Suffer

So-called developed countries still maintain a huge advantage in that a much higher proportion of their populations are Internet users. As can be seen in the graphic below, a much smaller percentage of individuals in developing nations have Internet access, and the ratio is even smaller for LDCs, or least developed countries. Eritrea, located in East Africa, has among the lowest Internet penetrations (1.1%), but many other nations are lagging as well, including Afghanistan (6.8%), Iraq (13%), Laos (15.7%) and Nicaragua (19.4%).

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Source: ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau

Trend 4: Mobile Phones Have Become Key to Global Access

Mobile phones provide the main form of Internet access in developing countries. Globally, cellular networks are much more pervasive than household Internet access. By some estimates, about 70% of the global population uses cellphones, and about 40% of them have smartphones, according to Internet Trends 2015.  In developing nations, more households own a mobile phone than have ready access to electricity or clean water. Even now, however, nearly half a billion people still live outside areas with a mobile signal, according to the World Bank Group’s Digital Dividends report.

Trend 5: Mobile Broadband Is More Affordable

Mobile broadband plans are, on average, considerably less expensive than fixed broadband plans. At a global level, the average price of a basic fixed broadband plan is 1.7 times higher than the average price of a comparable mobile-broadband plan.

Trend 6: U.S. Adults Have Turned a Mobile Corner

In the US, adults now access digital media primarily via mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, according to data from eMarketer. Yet, the total amount of time adults spend on personal computer and laptops has not declined much. Rather, the total number of hours spent on digital media has risen to 5.6 hours per day in 2015, as compared with 3.2 hours in 2010. This includes both home and work. In the accompanying graph, the “other” category represents devices such as game consoles.hours spent on digital media plotly version3_jpg

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Trend 7: Speed Matters and Changes the Overall Picture

Internet access is important, but the speed of the Internet connection is also key due to the rise of video and audio-based media. A lot of business plans depend on speed of access. Whereas South Korea and France have consistently blazing connections, Russia and Italy often do not. In all, only about 1.1 billion people have access to high-speed Internet. The World Bank data below, which is from the report Digital Dividends, shows just how stratified the world remains in terms of Internet access.

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