World Statistics on Internet Access and Freedom
The internet fills almost every area of our life. It provides us with fast communication, a variety of entertainment, availability of information, and much more.
Despite the widespread availability of the internet, not everyone has free access to the same functions and content. Moreover, the government and other authorities often impose restrictions on actions on the internet. This fact seriously limits internet freedom, which affects online users’ quality of life and other rights.
Internet freedom is a term that combines the digital rights of every internet user. It includes both freedom of information and open access to the web and published materials, as well as the absence of internet censorship and net neutrality.
You can read more about internet freedom philosophy here.
Today, we would like to consider some statistics that reflect the real picture of internet freedom around the world.
Part 1: Digital rights
What is digital security? Read more about it here.
World digital population
According to the study, at the beginning of 2021, there were just over 4.5 billion active internet users worldwide. It is more than half of the entire population. In addition, about 4.3 billion of this number use a mobile device to access the internet.
In the same study, it was estimated that the number of active users of social networks is more than 4.2 billion people (about 90% of all users.) In addition, approximately 4.15 billion people use mobile phones to visit social networks.
During the recent pandemic period, many events have occurred that directly or indirectly affect digital growth. The growth of active users in numbers amounts to more than 250 million new ones. That is about 700,000 thousand new users daily.
At the same time, the indicator of new users of social networks increased by 520 million. That is approximately 1.4 million unique users daily.
In addition, the number of mobile users increased at a rate of 2.3% per year, increasing by 117 million over the same period during the year.
People think about online privacy
According to a survey, most people were concerned that their online activity was being tracked under the guise of setting up personalized advertising.
The most concerned users were in Germany (more than 80% of respondents said that they care about their privacy on the internet. Then in the ranking comes France (about 70%,) Denmark (more than 65%,) Belgium (about 64%,) and Luxembourg (more than 60%.)
In the 28 EU countries (before the UK left), the total share of people concerned about their privacy on the internet was 61%.
Some countries impose artificial restrictions on various digital services. For example, they may restrict access to legal, informational, or even financial internet resources. In addition, restrictions may be imposed on online advertising, data transmission, downloading information, or general use of particular software.
According to the Digital Services Trade Restrictiveness Index of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Kazakhstan ranked first with the largest barriers affecting trade in digital services in 2020.
This is followed by China, Saudi Arabia, India, South Africa, and Russia. Interestingly, Costa Rica, Canada, Norway, the United States, Great Britain, and Switzerland were recognized as the least restrictions in this area.
How does the state restrict the internet in China? Learn more here.
Part 2: Freedom of information
Freedom of information or the right to information is given to people to publish or use publicly available information content.
The first country that adopted legislation in the field of freedom of information was Sweden. This happened back in 1766. In addition, the UN has even set a date that is considered the Day of Access to Information. This date is celebrated annually on September 28.
By the way, more and more countries have recently adopted a law on freedom of information. The biggest spike was recorded in 2016, when eight new countries adopted them, bringing the total number of countries with freedom of information laws to 112.
The decline of media freedom around the world
According to the World Press Freedom Index for 2016, compiled by the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), this year marked a severe decline in media freedom at all levels, including global and regional.
Back then, Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway were the best countries in terms of press freedom. Eritrea and North Korea showed the worst results. Then there was Syria and China.
Interestingly, such European countries as Germany and the United Kingdom were on the 16th and 38th place of the rating, respectively. The United States dropped even lower – 41st place.
How did Covid-19 affect press freedom?
The World Press Freedom Index for 2020 confirmed the impact of the pandemic on freedom of speech, the internet, and the media. The global indicator decreased by 12%, and the percentage of countries with increased censorship by 13%.
At the same time, Norway was recognized as the best country for media freedom. Then came Finland and Denmark. Finally, at the end of the list were North Korea (180th place), Turkmenistan (179), Eritrea (178), and China (177).
You can read more about internet censorship in Turkmenistan here.
Syria has slightly improved its media freedoms compared to 2016 but still ranks very low – 174th in 2020.
Interestingly, the situation in the United States has worsened, putting the country in 45th place in 2020.
Part 3: Internet access rights
In modern society, free internet access should be everywhere without any restrictions. This is supported by the human rights to freedom of action, opinion and belief, as well as other rights of every person.
For many years, human rights activists have been trying to strengthen the right to an accessible internet for everyone in the world. Back in 2014, in an Ipsos survey, 49% of respondents fully agreed with this question, while 34% agreed to some extent.
The high percentage of dissenters is explained by the fact that the internet is a commodity or a luxury item in some countries of the world. Since the price for it exceeds the price in the developed countries of the world several times.
Even though the number of internet users is growing, the gap from country to country remains significant.
The first in the top regions are North America (94%), Australia and New Zealand (93%), the EU (87%), and European countries outside the EU (82%).
The poorest regions with the best indicators are South Asia (21%), sub-Saharan Africa (31%), and South-East Asia (55%).
In the US, almost every adult aged 18-49 uses the internet, compared to 84% of those who are 50+.
In countries with advanced economies, there is greater use of the internet
In 2015, Pew Center conducted an interesting study. It took 40 countries that were analyzed under the topic of the availability of the internet. According to the study results, 67% of respondents actively used the internet, either from mobile devices or computers.
The countries with higher rates of internet use were South Korea (94%), Australia (93%), and Canada (90%). High rates (more than 80%) were also found in the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Israel, and Germany.
These data confirm the existing thesis that more developed countries have more accessible internet than countries with low economic indicators.
Part 4: Freedom from Internet censorship
Internet censorship controls the internet audience, more precisely over their actions in publishing, viewing, or accessibility of particular internet content. The government can adopt Internet censorship, public authorities, or private individuals.
Why is internet censorship bad? Learn more here.
Comparison of Internet freedom by countries
Iceland is considered a fairly developed country, so its internet censorship rate is the lowest in the world. As a result, this country was put in first place in terms of the degree of Internet freedom. This is followed by countries such as Estonia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Some countries of the former Soviet space entered the top 15 in terms of internet freedom: Georgia, Armenia, and Hungary. The United States is located in the same place as Georgia.
At the end of the list are China, Iran, Syria, Vietnam, and Cuba. Although in principle, nothing is surprising in such low results of these countries, strict internet censorship has been introduced there.
By the way, some countries impose strict rules on compliance with internet censorship. Otherwise, all those who disobey will be severely punished in the form of imprisonment.
According to the research results, the most blocked platform is WhatsApp, which is blocked in 12 countries. However, Facebook did not stay away either. Here, users were subjected to the greatest pressure: they were arrested for posting political, social, or religious content in 27 countries.
Is it safe to use WhatsApp? Or is it better to choose an alternative messenger? Read more in the article.
Censorship tactic: Internet disabling
Some countries impose not only internet censorship and filter the net, but also completely disable it. For example, there were about 20 such cases in India in 2017. In addition, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Malaysia are famous for internet outages cases.
Such disconnections from the World Wide Web are a kind of response to various social and political events taking place in the country.
Nevertheless, most developing countries advocate for the freedom and accessibility of the internet everywhere.
Part 5: Net Neutrality
Network neutrality is an idea that promotes equal treatment of all content published on the network. That is, there should be no discrimination of content on the internet on any basis. All content must be accessible and uncensored.
World net neutrality
Even though net neutrality issues are more interested in the residents of the United States, this problem is increasingly being brought to the global level. Therefore, some countries have already adopted appropriate laws to protect it.
Chile was the first country to adopt an official document on net neutrality protection in its legislation. In 2010, a law was passed here prohibiting various media companies, such as Facebook or Wikipedia, from subsidizing mobile data for consumers. However, the document also recorded possible exceptions regarding security and confidentiality.
Then, Brazil adopted a law according to which companies providing internet services can prioritize certain types of traffic only for technical reasons (for example, overloaded network bandwidth.)
The EU has also introduced strict laws and regulations. The main requirement is the same attitude to all internet traffic in any situation.
In the US, the net neutrality rules were adopted a few months later, after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published the final rule.
Modern society is becoming increasingly digital and globalized. Therefore, the issue of online freedom is being considered and discussed today more than ever.
However, internet access is not the same for everyone. There are both political and social restrictions and religious and educational ones that prevent universal access to the network.
In addition, in many countries, internet censorship and network restrictions are particularly acute in connection with various world events.
However, we hope that the internet will become not only accessible but also free and safe for everyone. And the Utopia P2P project will help in the realization of this dream or goal.