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Internet Population Explosion Could Mean Trouble

We all know the Internet has revolutionized civilization, but have you ever stopped to think just how much it has changed your life over the past 15 years — and what the future may hold? The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reports unprecedented growth in information and communications technologies (ICTs) since 2000.

Here are some mind boggling statistic from the latest ITU report: there are over 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide — up from 738 million in 2000 — and 3.2 billion people are using the Internet. Two billion of those people live in developing countries.

“These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date, but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy, as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

An Inclusive Information Society

Between 2000 and 2015, Internet penetration has increased almost seven-fold from a mere 6.5 to a whopping 43 percent of the global population. During that same time period, the proportion of households with Internet access at home climbed from 18 percent in 2005 to 46 percent in 2015.

On the flip side of the connectivity coin, 4 billion people in the developing world are still not online. Off the nearly 1 billion people living in what ITU calls the “least developing countries,” 851 million do not use the Internet.

“ICTs will play an even more significant role in the post-2015 era and in achieving future sustainable development goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society,” said Brahima Sanou, the director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Our mission is to connect everyone and to create a truly inclusive information society, for which we need comparable and high-quality data and statistics to measure progress.”

It’s Not All Good News

According to ICT’s latest report, global mobile-broadband penetration reached 47 percent in 2015. That’s a 12-fold increase since 2007. In 2015, 69 percent of the global population will be covered by 3G mobile broadband, up from 45 percent in 2011.

3G mobile broadband is also making a rapid expansion into rural areas. ITU estimates 29 percent of the 3.4 billion people living in rural areas around the world will be covered by 3G mobile broadband and 89 percent of the 4 billion people living in urban areas will have access to 3G mobile broadband by the end of 2015.

We asked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, for his thoughts on the report, specifically the 3.2 billion Internet population. He said the growing user base will change a lot of things — and not all of them are good.

“As more and more people are brought online and able to instantly communicate with each other elections, demonstrations, and group misbehavior become far more likely,” Enderle said. “In addition much of this new audience will be especially vulnerable to the ever improving skills of hackers and scammers. It suggests that if government, law enforcement, and industry don’t get ahead of this we will be looking at some really interesting and rather painful years to come.”

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