The UN agency for information and communication technologies, ITU, said that by the end of 2018 a full 51.2 per cent of people around the world will be using the Internet.
"By the end of 2018, we will surpass the 50/50 milestone for internet use," ITU chief Houlin Zhou said in a statement.
"This represents an important step towards a more inclusive global information society," he said, adding though that "far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy." He called for more support to "technology and business innovation so that the digital revolution leaves no one offline." According to ITU, the world's richest countries have been showing slow and steady growth in Internet use, which has risen from 51.3 per cent of their populations in 2005 to 80.9 per cent now.
The gains have meanwhile been more dramatic in developing countries, where 45.3 per cent of people are currently online, compared to just 7.7 per cent 13 years ago.
Africa has experienced the strongest growth, with a more than 10-fold hike in the number of Internet users over the same period, from 2.1 per cent to 24.4 per cent, the ITU report showed.