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Nearly half the world is online

News, 29 January 2016

LONDON: Almost one-third (31%) of the world's population now uses social media while the number of internet users has grown by 10% over the past year to 3.42bn, representing 46% global penetration, according to a new global study.

Social agency We Are Social released these headline findings in its "Digital in 2016" report, which took a comprehensive look at digital, social and mobile trends around the world.

In addition to nearly half of the world's population who now access the internet, We Are Social calculated that there are currently 2.31bn social media users globally.

There are also 1.97bn mobile social media users and 3.79bn unique mobile users, equating to 27% and 51% global penetration respectively.

Asia-Pacific registered the largest absolute growth in internet user numbers, up nearly 200m, which represents 12% year-on-year growth. At that pace, APAC saw half a million people use the internet for the first time every single day in the past twelve months – or six new users every second.

In terms of individual country rankings for internet usage, Iceland is top with 98% penetration, closely followed by Bermuda (97%) and Norway (96%).

North Korea, not surprisingly, was found to have the lowest internet penetration worldwide, with barely 7,000 people reported to be able to access the internet.

Among what the report describes as the "Key 30" economies, the United Arab Emirates is top at 96%, followed by the UK (92%) and Canada (91%).

India and Indonesia sit at the lower end of the scale with 28% and 34% internet penetration respectively, but they are the only two countries in the Key 30 that fall below the global average of 46%.

Brazilians and Filipinos spend the most time using the internet, clocking in an average of 5.2 hours per day. Also, Brazilians – along with Thais – spend the most time using the mobile internet (3.9 hours a day).

Meanwhile, Japanese and South Koreans consumers spend the least amount of time on the internet each day compared to the rest of the Key 30, at just 2.9 and 3.1 hours respectively.

Looking at social media in more detail, the report found that Facebook continues to dominate with more than 1.5bn active accounts, while its mobile-messaging app, WhatsApp, grew at what the report called a "staggering" 50% in the past year.

North America has the highest level of social media penetration at 59%, but when it comes to individual countries, Taiwan is seen as the "most social" with 77% of its people using Facebook in the past 30 days.

The report also highlighted three key conclusions for brands seeking to survive in this rapidly changing digital world.

First, they should optimise their entire organisations for a mobile-centric world because "mobile is dramatically changing everything".

Secondly, with connectivity becoming the norm, "brands need to explore how connectivity can improve every element of their business, not just their advertising".

Finally, social is once again about conversations, so marketers should work to create "truly social brands, and not just brands that interrupt people where they're socialising with each other".

Data sourced from We Are Social; additional content by Warc staff