It is estimated that 37 percent of the global population, around 2.9 billion people, have never once used the Internet, according to data by The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency within the United Nations.
Despite this figure, the ITU has also seen a strong growth in Internet use across the world. The predicted number of those who have been online has risen to 4.9 billion in 2021, up from 4.1 billion in 2019.
The atypical uptick in Internet-users is likely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and campaigns taken throughout the pandemic during lockdowns to engage with people by getting them online.
This brought an estimated 782 million more Internet users, increasing connectivity by 17 percent from 2019, states ITU.
Of the people who remain disconnected from the Internet, 96 percent of them live in developing nations and even within the 4.9 billion people who are online users, ITU states that millions of them likely use the Internet less frequently than those in developed countries and may use the Internet at a disadvantageous speed than those in wealthier nations.
“While almost two-thirds of the world’s population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet,” said ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao as written in the ITU press release. “ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind.”
The Internet has been an essential tool for Americans during the COVID-19 lockdowns, particularly in early 2020.
A Pew Research Center poll released in September 2021 showed that 90 percent of Americans found that the Internet has been essential to them, or important to them during the pandemic.
In addition to Americans saying they have a newfound sense of importance for the Internet in their day-to-day lives, 81 percent of Americans also have said that they spoke with others via video calls since the pandemic’s outbreak in Feb. 2020, according to Pew.