Report shows big slowdown in global growth of internet access

A report from The Web Foundation, which was founded by internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee, shows a stark decline in the worldwide growth of internet access.

Around the world, an estimated 3.8 billion people don't have internet access, the report shows. The so-called 'digital divide' is still here, and it's worse than ever for people in isolated locations, poor people, and women.

"In poor urban areas, men can outnumber women on the internet as much as two to one."

The internet revolution remains a distant dream for billions of people on Planet Earth in 2018. And most of all, for women.

The Guardian got an exclusive look at the data before publication. From their report:

The striking trend, described in an unpublished report shared with the Guardian, shows the rate at which the world is getting online has fallen sharply since 2015, with women and the rural poor substantially excluded from education, business and other opportunities the internet can provide.

The slowdown is described in an analysis of UN data that will be published next month by the Web Foundation, an organisation set up by the inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The data shows that growth in global internet access dropped from 19% in 2007 to less than 6% last year.

"We underestimated the slowdown and the growth rate is now really worrying ," said Dhanaraj Thakur, research director at the Web Foundation. "The problem with having some people online and others not is that you increase the existing inequalities. If you're not part of it, you tend to lose out."

In 2014 the UN predicted that half the world would be online by 2017, but the slowdown means that line will not be crossed until May 2019, only months before the UN sustainable development goal of affordable internet access for all by 2020. The UN defines being online as having used the internet from any device in any location at least once in the past three months.

Had growth rates held steady near the 11% average for 2005 to 2017, more than half a billion extra people would now be online. Of the 3.8 billion who remain unconnected, an alarming proportion are women. In poor urban areas, men can outnumber women on the internet as much as two to one.

(Top photo: pcruciatti, Shutterstock)