We live in an increasingly connected world. Back in the 1960s, the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan envisaged a so-called ‘global village’ – a society which spanned continents and enabled people to live in a single, globalised marketplace. Today in 2020, the internet has brought international coexistence closer than even McLuhan probably imagined.
The news that more than 4.5 billion people around the globe now have access to the internet shows how completely we’ve embraced technology. That means over 50% of the world’s population can browse the web, use social media, and connect to other people online.
Whether you rely on the internet for your job, to keep in touch with your family from afar, or simply to play casino games online, there’s no doubt that our lives have been utterly transformed by the internet.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the history of global internet usage, explaining which countries use the internet the most, and asking ‘what’s next’ as the number of users passes 4.5 billion.
What’s the history of the internet?
1984 – 2000
Originally used to connect global governments, the internet started appearing in homes around the world in the 1990s. This wasn’t long after the introduction of home computers, so the initial adoption of the internet was slow. In the United States in 1984, for example, around 8% of US households owned a computer according to the Current Population Survey (CPS) – and almost 60% of the owners reported that they were still learning how to use it.
2000 – 2020
Once the internet started gaining in popularity, its use skyrocketed – at least in the USA and Europe. By the year 2000, almost half of the population of the United States was using the internet, and more than half the populations of both Norway and Canada.
Elsewhere in the world, however, it wasn’t so widespread. More than 90% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific still had no access to the rapidly growing online community.
Over the next fifteen years, the tide changed considerably. Countries in South and East Asia are now some of the biggest internet users in the world, with the exception of North Korea (where the internet is closely controlled by the government).
Statistics even show that on any given day over the last five years, an average of 640,000 people signed up to the internet for the first time. That’s a staggering 27,000 new internet users every hour!
Which countries have the most internet users?
It’s not surprising that the largest internet user is China, where more than 904 million people are connected to the Internet. India comes in at second place with approximately 719 million, thanks in part to the steadily increasing adoption of the internet in rural states.
The gap between second and third place is considerable. The United States is the third biggest internet user, but has more than 400 million fewer users than India. Below the USA is Indonesia, which is home to around 171 million users.
Due to increasing urbanisation, it’s likely the percentage of people who are still not connected to the internet – currently around 43% – will continue to dwindle. And with the rise of remote working continuing to drive internet adoption, we can expect to see the digital landscape change considerably over the next 30 years.