Internet Access Around The World: Facts & Figures

Updated March 2023: We look at key facts and figures relating to internet access around the world – number of users, differences between countries, and more.

By Cheenee Ronquillo of CompareBroadband

The internet has become essential to modern life, connecting people worldwide and providing access to a wealth of information, services, and opportunities. But did you know internet access is distributed unevenly around the world? Some countries and regions need more access. While some countries have made significant strides in digital development, others are still working on bridging the digital divide.

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Figures and Facts regarding Internet Access Around The World

Understanding the current state of internet access worldwide is essential for addressing these challenges and harnessing the full potential of this powerful tool for global development and progress. So, let’s take a look:

China has the most people online 

China is the country with the most internet users in the world, with an estimated 989 million people online. This makes up more than 20% of the world’s internet users. However, internet access in China is heavily regulated by the country’s government through a system dubbed “the Great Firewall”.

This “Great Firewall of China” is a censorship and surveillance system that controls internet traffic in and out of China. The system blocks access to websites deemed sensitive or harmful to the Chinese government, including social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and news websites and search engines like Google. Chinese internet users can only access these websites through virtual private networks (VPN), bypassing the Great Firewall. However, the Chinese government heavily restricts this use, too.

Thus, many human rights organisations are concerned about internet censorship, surveillance in China, and restrictions on information access and freedom of expression. 

Despite these restrictions, the internet is essential for China’s communication, socialisation, and commerce. Chinese internet companies like Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu have become global giants in their respective fields. China has also been at the forefront of developing new technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence. 

4.6 billion people have internet access

According to recent statistics, over 4.6 billion people have access to the internet. This figure is around 60% of the global population. This number has been steadily increasing in recent years, with new technologies like mobile devices meaning more and more people are gaining access to the internet. However, a considerable digital divide exists between developed and developing countries. Efforts are being made to bridge this gap and increase internet access for all. The internet has become an indispensable tool for communication, education, and economic growth in our modern world.

The recent NBN plan rollout in Australia has brought the online population to more than 22.31 million!

Internet Access Around The World: Streetview of shopfronts and trees under a blue sky in Australia
Internet Access Around The World:
Australia, like many wealthy countries, has seen internet access boom in recent decades.

How do different places use the internet?

Different countries use the internet differently; it’s true, depending on their cultural norms, economic development, and government policies. Here are some examples of how other countries use the internet:

1. China: as we mentioned, this country is home to the most internet users in the world, with the government tightly controlling online content. Thus, Chinese internet users heavily rely on local platforms such as WeChat and Weibo for communication and social networking. However, they do have access to Facebook and other popular external sites.

2. United States: In the United States, the internet is widely used for social media, online shopping, and entertainment, with little filtering. The country is also a hub for tech innovation, with many of the world’s largest tech companies based in Silicon Valley.

3. India: India has a rapidly growing internet user base, and the internet is used for a wide range of purposes, such as online education, e-commerce, and social networking. The country is also home to many startups focused on developing innovative tech solutions for local needs!

4. South Korea: South Korea has one of the highest rates of internet penetration in the world, and the internet is used for a wide range of purposes, such as online gaming, e-commerce, and video streaming. The country is also a leader in tech innovation, particularly in mobile devices and telecommunications.

5. Germany: In Germany, the internet is widely used for online banking, e-commerce, and social networking. The country has strict data protection laws and a strong emphasis on privacy and security.

These are just some examples of how different countries use the internet. How the internet is used can vary widely depending on local cultural, economic, and political factors.

Internet access is still limited in places

Can you believe that in this day and age, there are still places the internet hasn’t quite reached? After all, you can even get internet in space! And yet, while the internet is available in many parts of the world, it is not available everywhere. There are still many areas where internet access is limited or non-existent, particularly in low-income and rural areas in developing countries. According to recent statistics, around 60% of the global population has access to the internet. But this means over 4 billion people still lack access.

Several culprits are behind the uneven distribution of internet access worldwide, including infrastructure limitations, lack of resources, and government policies. In some cases, governments may restrict access to the internet as a way to control information and maintain power.

Efforts are being made to increase internet access in areas where it is currently limited, such as through the development of new technologies like satellite internet and through government and private sector investments in digital infrastructure. The United Nations has also set a goal of achieving universal internet access by 2030 as part of its Sustainable Development Goals, recognising the importance of internet access for promoting economic growth, education, and social development.

Singapore has the fastest internet

Yes, According to data from the Speedtest Global Index, the country with the fastest internet (average fixed broadband) speed in the world is Singapore, with an average speed of 257.16 Mbps. The countries with the following fastest broadband speeds are Hong Kong, Romania, Switzerland, and South Korea.

It is important to note that internet speeds can vary drastically depending on factors such as location, infrastructure, and the type of connection used. On top of this, the Global Index data only reflects speeds for fixed broadband internet connections and may not necessarily represent the overall internet speeds in these countries.

If you want faster broadband without moving halfway across the world, compare providers at Compare Broadband!

Which countries have the most internet users?

Despite the heavy government censorship and viewing limitations, China still has the most people online!

1. China: With over 1.4 billion population, China has the most internet users in the world – an estimated 1.1 billion.

2. India: Second to the post is India. India has the second-largest number of internet users, with an estimated 711 million users.

3. United States: America Somewhat Online? The United States has the third-largest number of internet users, with an estimated 309 million users.

4. Indonesia: having an estimated 176 million users, Indonesia has the fourth-largest number of internet users in the world.

5. Brazil: Brazil has the fifth-largest number of internet users in the world, with an estimated 149 million users.

These numbers reflect the total number of internet users in each country, regardless of how much of the population has internet access or connection speeds across the country.

People in Nordic countries have the best access to internet

Did you know that the measurement of the number of people who have access to the internet in a country is called the internet penetration rate? 

Most of the countries with the best internet penetration rates are Nordic countries.

These countries have high levels of internet penetration due to things like high economic development, advanced digital infrastructure, and government policies supporting internet access and digital development. 

However, high internet penetration rates don’t always mean equally high levels of digital literacy or access to digital opportunities for all members of society.

1. Iceland: With a population of just over 364,000, Iceland has the highest internet penetration rate in the world, at a whopping 98.2%!

2. Norway: Norway has the second-highest internet penetration rate globally, at 97.3%.

3. Denmark: Denmark has the third-highest internet penetration rate in the world, at 96.9%.

4. Andorra: This small country, located between France and Spain, has the fourth-highest internet penetration rate in the world, at 96.7%.

5. Liechtenstein: With the fifth-highest internet penetration rate in the world, at 96.4%, Liechtenstein is a small country between Switzerland and Austria. Still, almost the entire country has access to the internet here!

What about Australia? Australia isn’t far behind, with a 90% penetration rate!

Top down view of a table covered with laptops, headphones, and a smartphone
Image source: unsplash

Many countries censor their citizens’ access to the internet

We discussed how the Chinese government had implemented a “Great Firewall”, but did you know China isn’t the only country with this?

Internet surveillance and censorship are serious human rights violations and can significantly affect freedom of expression and access to trustworthy information. As a result, efforts are being made by civil society groups, governments, and international organisations to promote internet freedom and protect users’ rights online.

1. China: It’s well-known that the Chinese government has one of the world’s most extensive internet surveillance and censorship systems. The government heavily monitors online activity and restricts access to content it deems politically sensitive or harmful to social stability.

2. Iran: Much like China, the Iranian government also heavily censors online content and monitors online activity, particularly concerning political dissent and opposition groups. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, and other websites are blocked or restricted.

3. Russia: The Russian government has been known to engage in internet censorship and surveillance, mainly in the context of political dissent and opposition. Websites critical of the government are often blocked or restricted, and social media platforms are closely monitored.

4. North Korea: North Korea has one of the world’s most tightly controlled internet systems, with most citizens without internet access. The government’s own intranet system is heavily monitored and censored.

5. Saudi Arabia: The Saudi Arabian government has been known to use internet censorship and surveillance, particularly regarding political dissent and opposition. Social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube are staunchly monitored, and many websites are blocked or restricted.

Australia has begun carrying out internet censorship too, but this is more in the name of protecting children from harmful content and preventing access to gambling content.

Key Takeaways on Internet Access Around The World

As you can see, internet surveillance and censorship are serious issues in many countries worldwide. The extent of these practices can vary widely depending on government policies and local laws, but it’s often controversial.