OECD: Internet penetration - who’s online?

Posted in: Research at 21/03/2010 22:53

Access to broadband internet might once have been seen as a luxury, but increasingly it's viewed as an economic necessity. As this OECD report (pdf) suggests, investment in fast access can bring returns all sorts of ways. These include allowing the creation of "smart" electricity grids, which can lower power consumption; gathering and providing transport information, which can lower commuting time; and making greater use of the internet in education and healthcare, for instance by allowing doctors to monitor patients at a distance.

By June 2009, the number of broadband subscribers in OECD countries had reached 271 million, up 10% over the previous year. The country with the highest number of broadband subscribers in absolute terms is the United States, with more than 81 million. However, another way to use the data is to look at broadband penetration - essentially the number of subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Looked at from this perspective, the Netherlands is the OECD leader, with a broadband penetration rate of about 38%; at the other end of the scale is Mexico, with a rate of just over 6%. On the map below, a bigger circle indicates a higher number of subscribers; a darker circle indicates higher penetration.

As for the technologies involved, only about a tenth of OECD subscribers are on fibre-optic networks. However, that proportion is likely to grow. Fibre-optic is already well established in Japan and Korea, and it's growing rapidly in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

It's worth noting that the number of broadband subscribers isn't the same as the number of broadband users, which tends generally to be higher. That's because a household is likely to have just one subscription, but it may be used by everyone in the family. That can also be a factor in international comparisons: In countries where households tend to be bigger, the number of subscribers may be correspondingly lower.

To read more of this OECD research, and view tables and graphs, see:

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