Almost half of the world's population will be using the internet by the end of 2016, as mobile networks grow and prices fall.
A report from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) also said that in 2016, people no longer go online, they are online.
“The spread of 3G and 4G networks across the world had brought the internet to more and more people,” the report says. ITU expects 3.5 billion people to have access by the end of this year, according to UNB.
Telecoms and internet companies are expanding as more affordable smartphones encourage consumers to browse the internet, causing demand to grow for data-heavy services.
But their numbers will remain concentrated in the developed world, with less than 15 per cent online in less-developed countries.
A new report by the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) shows that in the world's developed countries about 80 per cent of the population use the internet.
But only about 40 per cent in developing countries and less than 15 per cent in less-developed countries are online.
In several of Africa's poorer and more fragile countries, only one person in 10 is on the internet.
The offline population is female, elderly, less educated, poorer and lives in rural areas, said the union, a specialized agency for information and communication technologies.
Globally, 47 per cent of the world's population is online, still far short of a UN target of 60 per cent by 2020.
Some 3.9 billion people, more than half the world's population, are not.
However, less-developed countries - LDCs - still trail the rest of the world.
'Internet penetration levels in LDCs today have reached the level enjoyed by developed countries in 1998, suggesting that the LDCs are lagging nearly 20 years behind the developed countries,' the report said.
It blamed the cost of services and of extending infrastructure to rural and remote customers and the high price of mobile cellular use. –RH