Internet users in the world, 1999-2009


Observations for policy

Internet usage and the access to broadband are diffusing rapidly all over in the world. In worldwide perspective most European countries together with Northern America belong to the group ith most Internet users. Former gaps in Internet use between European countries have been decreasing between 1999 and 2009, at least in a worldwide perspective.

Policy context

Global linkages and access to the information society are important development features in worldwide competition if firms, services and products as well as in attracting skilled labour.

The Digital Agenda for Europe is one of several flagship initiatives in this field. The aim of this initiative is to create a single digital market based on fast and ultrafast Internet and interoperable applications. The policy target is to have high-speed Internet accessible to everyone.

Map interpretation

The two maps show Internet users in the world for the period 1999 and 2009. In 1999 the highest share of Internet users, between 20 and 50 per cent of the population, was found in Northern Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand. For European countries,  the figure was between 10 and 20 per cent while the rest of the world was below 10 per cent. A decade later, in 2009, the share of internet users has increased drastically throughout Europe to between 50 and 100 per cent. This supports an important position and competitive advantage of Europe in the world at the level of other highly developed countries.

The increase of internet users in the rest of the world, in particular in Asia and Africa has been even more rapid, going from 5 and 10 per cent to between 20 and 50 per cent. This positive development is however starting from very low figures on internet users.

The comparison of the two maps shows that countries with relatively low levels of internet users are catching up. Within Europe, former gaps between countries have been closed, at least in a worldwide perspective. This positive evolution however does not consider the quality and speed of the internet access and the services available. In conclusion, it could be said that fast diffusion of digital networks is mainly due to the growth of Internet users during the last decade.

Concepts and methods

The map depicts an indicator that has been calculated by dividing the number of individuals who use the Internet in the last 12 months by the total number of individuals. The proportion of individuals using Internet is originally from ITU (International Telecommunication Union).