The number of Internet users in developing countries ballooned between 2005 and 2010, from 408 million people to 1.2 billion, outpacing the growth in developed nations, which went from 606 million users to 850 million. Nonetheless, there is a widespread perception that Internet use in developing regions still lags far behind that of developed countries.
- Access to mobile phones and mobile broadband also has increased significantly in developing countries. In 2005, about 1 in 4 people in developing countries had a mobile cellular subscription; as of 2010, the rate was 7 out of 10. In 2007, there were 0.8 mobile broadband subscribers per 100 people; by 2010, the figure had soared to 5.3 per 100.
- China, with 485 million people who access the Internet, accounts for 40 percent of all Internet users in developing countries. In India, 100 million people use the Internet.
- Africa falls behind other regions in terms of access to online and mobile technology, but it has nearly 86 million Internet users, 360 million mobile phone subscribers, and 20 million mobile broadband subscribers.
- Although it is not possible to quantify the impact of Internet-based communications on political organizing, the anecdotal evidence of the effect is overwhelming. In April 2009, after about 10,000 young Moldovans gathered, seemingly spontaneously, in the capital city of Chisinau to protest election results, many sources cited Twitter, Facebook, and text messaging as tools that had drawn the crowds. Two months later, after the presidential election in Iran, protesters used the same technology. The Facebook group of opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi grew to more than 50,000 members, and his Twitter feed had 7,000 followers.
- There is little doubt that mobile communication has played an important role in the recent democracy movements in Arab countries. Tunisia, where the uprisings began, has more than 3.6 million Internet users, representing one-third of the population, and 2.6 million Facebook users, representing nearly one-fourth. Egypt’s 20 million Internet users account for about one-fourth of that country’s population, and its 7.3 million Facebook users nearly one-tenth. In Libya, even though only 5 percent of the population uses the Internet and less than 1 percent is on Facebook, that translates to 350,000 Internet users and 50,000 with Facebook accounts.
- The International Telecommunication Union estimates that access to mobile networks is available to 90 percent of the world’s population and to 80 percent of people living in rural areas. According to the organization, the number of text messages sent annually worldwide increased threefold between 2007 and 2010, from 1.8 trillion to 6.1 trillion. That means about 200,000 text messages were sent every second in 2010.