Map by author using GunnMap and data from the UN.

Over Half the World's Population Still Can't Connect to the Internet

We're expected to pass the 50 percent mark sometime in 2017.

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Sep 22 2014, 8:05pm

Map by author using GunnMap and data from the UN.

Over the weekend, while you  were streaming Netflix and swapping memes, representatives from the United Nations were trying to bring the internet to the rest of the world.

The UN's Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which convened on Sunday, has just released its annual State of Broadband Report. The hefty, 110-page document predicts that over 50 percent of the global population will have internet access by 2017.

Sounds pretty good, but the report also serves as a stark reminder that a lot of people around the world remain woefully unplugged. Above, you'll see a map that highlights countries by the percent of residents who have fixed broadband subscriptions (Grey indicates no data).

Predictably, developed countries are doing pretty well. Monaco, a tiny country on the French Riviera, is leading with 44.7 percent of residents connected via fixed broadband. Switzerland and Denmark are next, at 43 and 40 percent, respectively.  The United States comes in 24th, with just under 30 percent connecting via fixed broadband.

West Africa, on the other hand, has paltry connection rates.

Mobile broadband subscriptions tell a similar story, although the data in the report are less complete. The following map highlights countries by percent of residents around the world who connect to the internet via mobile broadband. 

Singapore, Finland and Japan rank highest on mobile broadband connections, each averaging more than one connection per person (hence the scale you'll see on the map below). The United States makes a more honorable showing on this map, with 92.8 percent of residents able to get online via mobile broadband. Developing countries, especially those in West Africa, are still not looking great.

Map by author using GunnMap and data from the UN.

On both maps, those black spots are cause for concern. An internet-savvy populace can more easily fight oppression via social media. And as the internet continues to foster startups and encourage the exchange of scientific ideas (try conducting medical research without PubMed), unplugged countries are bound to fall even further behind in the global economy.

It's easy to forget that the internet only connects people who are, essentially, already connected. Fortunately, the UN report suggests that the disparity evident from these maps may well change in the coming years.

For the sake of those countries that are still offline, it cannot happen soon enough. 

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