According to data compiled by marketing firm Miniwatts, and sourced from Nielsen Online, the International Telecommunications Union, GfK and local regulators, an estimated 525 million people on the African continent went online last month. More than internet users in North America and the Middle East combined, despite the lowest level of internet penetration.

The only area that exceeds that number of internet users is Europe, which has a combined online user level of 719 million people, comprising of 87% of the population. (North America has 327 million online users, (89%) while the Middle East has 174 million (67%).)

Rapidly Expanding Growth

Across the rest of the world, internet usage has grown by 88% between 2000 and 2019. In Africa however, internet usage has grown by 11,532%, and that accounts for only 40% of the population of the continent.

With both Google and Facebook planning projects to build additional undersea cables to bring more internet capacity to the continent, internet penetration is expected to continue to increase and improve in Africa, and it is expected that in the relatively near future, the number of Africans online will be greater than the number of Europeans as well.

Local Numbers

In South Africa, only 56% of the population is online, compared to 60% in Nigeria, and 83% in Kenya. However, Nigeria’s position as the most populous country in Africa, (more than 3 times as many citizens as SA), gives it an internet population of 112 million people, with 20% of all African internet users hailing from that country.

As we continue to improve affordability and internet penetration, online solutions will become more and more important in terms of providing services, and reaching potential customers and audiences.

The World and The Internet

If we take the date of birth of the internet as being the point where the TCP/IP protocols were introduced, (protocols that are still used to transfer data online to this day), the modern internet was born in January 1983. 36 years from the time of writing. However, it didn’t become publicly available until August 1991, a mere 28 years ago, and of course, widespread adoption would take nearly another decade.

If we look at how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time, it’s hard to imagine that this is only the beginning. That currently, less than 60% (57.3% according to Internet World Stats) of the people in the world are online. Who knows where it will go from here?

In another 30 years, we may have stopped distinguishing between an online world, and an offline one.