The forecast: The internet will have 4.55 billion users worldwide this year, up 2.6% over 2021. This amounts to 57.4% of the general population (including all ages).
- Growth in internet penetration is slowing overall after hitting a 7.7% growth rate in 2020, the highest since 2015. This massive growth was largely due to the pandemic shifting in-person settings to remote—and as internet use has saturated, growth has slowed.
- Internet use will grow the fastest in the Middle East and Africa, at 4.0% this year, where there is the most room for growth. In 2022, just 29.8% of the region's population will be online, compared with 89.2% in North America.
- Mobile phone use is higher worldwide than internet use, hitting 64.8% of the general population this year. That said, smartphone penetration is significantly lower, at 44.8% in 2022. Smartphones will reach just 14.2% of the general population in the Middle East and Africa, while mobile phones will reach 36.6% of the population there.
Looking ahead: Overall, growth rates show a lot of variety across regions, with the most room for growth in the Middle East and Africa. Worldwide, there will be 4.88 billion internet users in 2026, for a total of 59.4% of the general population.