By the end of 2018, no fewer than 3.9 billion people, making up more than half the world population, will have access to the internet, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has said.
The United Nations telecommunications agency made the projection in its Global and Regional Estimates for 2018.
The latest figures also spotlight Africa, which shows the strongest rate of growth in internet access, from around two per cent in 2005, to more than 24 per cent of the African population in 2018.
Europe and the Americas are the regions with the slowest growth rates, though the current figures show that 79.6 per cent and 69.6 per cent are online, respectively.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said “the estimates are a pointer to the great strides the world is making towards building a more inclusive global information society”.
The record figure of 3.9 billion people, or 51.2 per cent that will be online by the end of December, is an important milestone in the digital revolution, according to the ITU.
The agency insisted that this increased connectivity would help promote sustainable development everywhere.
Overall, said the ITU, “in developed countries, slow and steady growth increased the percentage of population using the Internet, from 51.3 per cent in 2005 to 80.9 per cent in 2018.”
In spite of this progress, ITU has warned that a lot of communities worldwide, still do not use the internet, particularly women and girls.
The statistics show older people also disproportionately remain offline, as do those with disabilities, indigenous populations and some people living in the world’s poorest places.
In a bid to reduce inequalities, the agency is calling on more infrastructure investment from the public and private sectors, and to focus on ensuring that access remains affordable for all.
“We must encourage more investment from the public and private sectors and create a good environment to attract investments, and support technology and business innovation so that the digital revolution leaves no one offline,” Zhao said.