Internet Users Worldwide 2016 – 2020: The Growth At Decreasing Rate [REPORT]

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More and more people all over the world are beginning to use the internet, albeit at a declining rate, according to an eMarketer report  that estimates the growing number internet users worldwide between 2016 and 2020, and the number of mobile users worldwide between 2016 and 2020. The rate of growth will be the slowest in Western Europe and North America where a sizeable population is already online whether through computers, tablets or smartphones.

Growth of Internet Users Worldwide 2016 – 2020

Almost 47% of the Earthlings will be connected to the internet by the end of this year, an increase of 6.8% over 2015. Half the world’s population will be online in 2018 and by the end of that year, 3.82 billion people or 51.1% of the population will be using the internet.

Unlike developed economies like Western Europe and North America where almost everyone is already connected to the World Wide Web, this will be a new experience for consumers across developing countries. Regions like Africa, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe where internet access is relatively low, if not poor, getting connected to the internet will be a first time experience for a sizable chunk of their population.

72% of the new internet users across the globe are estimated to access it through smartphones, compared to 60.1% in 2015. This could be attributed to the fact that internet usage is being driven primarily because of messaging apps (like WhatsApp, SnapChat, WeChat, etc) and social media.

The latest eMarketer estimates about the number of internet users take into account the adjustments in population and GDP and are therefore different from their previous forecasts. The numbers as per this report are significantly higher in the Asia-Pacific region, especially the two most populous countries, China and India which together account for more than 30% of the world’s population.

Growing Number of Smartphone Users Worldwide 2016 – 2020

The rate of smartphone adoption will continue to be robust, as their users register a double-digit growth. Almost 2.10 billion people or 28.7% of the world’s population will own smartphones by the end of 2016. The increase in the number of smartphones users will also be faster than that of feature phones. Nearly 47.4% of mobile phone users will possess smartphones by the end of this year. By the end of 2017, smartphone users will outnumber feature phone users.

smartphone usera and penetration worldwide 2014-2020 emarketer

Smartphone adoption in developing economies like India, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria and Turkey will be driven by the easy availability of inexpensive entry-level smartphones.

The growth in the number of tablet users has slowed down too. Tablet users are estimated to grow by 12.2% in 2016, which means that 15% of the world’s population will own tablet devices by the end of this year. However, that is expected to increase only to 19.2% by the end of 2020, which marks the end of the forecast period. The similar trends are observed by International Data Corporation (IDC), a renowned research firm. According to latest figures released by IDC, the number of tablet devices shipped across the world during 2015 fell by nearly 10.1% while the smartphone shipments registered an increase of 10.1%. This slowdown in the growth of tablet device usage can be attributed to the growing adoption of large screen smartphones, Phablets, which cost only a fraction when compared to tablets and iPads.

Tablet users and penetration worldwide 2014-2020 emarketer

The internet today has changed the way we think, we work, behave and interact with family and friends, and it will continue to do so in the future too but the ‘easy growth is behind us,’ as per Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist and a partner with Silicon valley based firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In a 213-page slide show released by her last Wednesday at the 2016 Code Conference (where other scheduled speakers included Bill and Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk), she had some startling facts and figures about internet usage.

One of the most notable takeaways from her comprehensive presentation was:

The internet itself is seeing slowing growth. In the past two decades, the internet economy was affected by macroeconomic trends, but it was external issues like the housing crisis and the financial crisis that were driving the slowdown. Now it is global internet growth itself that is slowing down.

She attributes this slowdown in the growth rate of internet users to five main reasons:

  • Connectivity growth is slowing.
  • Emerging-country growth is slowing.
  • Government debt is rising (and high).
  • Interest rates have declined.
  • The rate of population growth is slowing and the population is ageing.

Growth Of Internet Adoption In India

While the worldwide growth of Internet users has largely been dependent on the US and China market for over the years, the conditions have changed now due to saturation. India has emerged as the most promising market for both the Internet and mobile companies, thanks to the large population, low penetration of the Internet and Smartphone and relaxed trade conditions, unlike China.

According to Mary Meeker, the number of internet users in India grew to 277 million, an increase of 40%, which is an improvement over the 33% growth registered during the previous year and a 9% global growth rate. The internet adoption rate in India, therefore, is four times the adoption rate elsewhere in the world. The figure, in contrast, surprises in the light of the fact that, in November last year, IAMAI had claimed that the Internet user base in India will touch 402 million mark by June 2016.

Mary claimed that if the growth in India were to be excluded from the global figures, the overall growth rate would dip to only 7%!

YOY growth internet users in India

Due to an already high rate of penetration in developed markets, new users are hard to come by whereas developing countries, likes of India, have a huge user base waiting to be explored. This augurs well for internet service providers, at least in the short term. That should also come as good news for makers of inexpensive, entry-level smartphones as large-screened mobile devices continue to spell doom for the tablet industry.

In spite of challenges and higher risks, Meeker sees ‘tremendous opportunity for companies that innovate, increase efficiency, lower prices and create jobs.”

The number of internet users worldwide in 2016 is set to rise up to 3.43 billion, still there is a big window of opportunity for the internet companies worldwide considering more than 55% of the world’s population is yet to onboard.



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