3.2 billion people worldwide now use the Internet

The number of worldwide Internet users grew by 200 million in 2015 to 3.2 billion, according to a report from Facebook.

The growth is consistent with previous years. Facebook said the number of Internet users has increased by 200 million to 300 million every year for the past 10 years.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said he sees the consistent growth in connectivity numbers as a strong trend.

“I think it’s amazing that in 30 years, nearly half of the world’s population is now online and able to access the vast amounts of information available on the Web,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “If you asked a technologist back in 1995 to predict the breadth of reach and richness of content of today’s web, they would have significantly underestimated both. We’ve come a very long way in a very little amount of time.”

While those numbers show strong growth, it still means there are about 4.1 billion people who were not online by the end of last year.

According to Facebook’s second annual study, State of Connectivity 2015: A Report on Global Internet Access, there are four factors acting as barriers to increased global Internet access: lack of infrastructure in remote and poor areas of the world; the cost of access; a strong reason for people to push for access, and the skills and cultural acceptance needed to access the Internet.

“In order to address the barriers to connectivity, corporations, governments, NGOs and nonprofits need to work together to continue gathering more accurate data on the state of global connectivity, and develop global standards for collecting, reporting, and distributing this data,” Facebook stated in the report.

Olds said it’s a positive step that companies and governments are increasingly working together to broaden the reach of online connectivity.

“We’re seeing stories all the time about new mechanisms to aid web access in remote parts of the world,” he said. “There are ideas ranging from satellite-based service to even Wi-Fi balloons designed to light up the Web in the most isolated places on Earth. Both governments and commercial providers are increasingly aligned on the need to extend Web service to the greatest extent possible.”

Increasing that access is critical to enabling people in poor and rural areas to better educate themselves, communicate and make a living.

Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said the industry needs to focus on the people without access and figure out the next steps to help them.

“There's still plenty of room for growth on a worldwide basis,” he added. “We have to think of the next growth wave.”

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