Full screen

Global Growth in Internet Users 1990-2020 (Absolute Increase)

World Maps
a month ago
CC BY 4.0

Global Growth in Internet Users 1990-2020

  • Growth in Internet Users: Every country listed has seen an increase in the number of internet users between 1990 and 2020. This reflects the global trend towards digital connectivity and the growing accessibility of the internet.
  • Developed vs. Developing Nations: Developed countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States had some internet users in 1990, whereas many developing countries had none. By 2020, internet usage in developed countries is near universal, while in developing countries, although usage has increased dramatically, it is not yet universal.
  • Notable Increases: China and India have the largest absolute increases, with internet users in the hundreds of millions. This is consistent with their large populations and rapid technological development during this period.
  • High Penetration Rates: Smaller countries with high GDP per capita like Singapore, Qatar, and Luxembourg show a high number of internet users relative to their population, suggesting a high penetration rate.
  • Absolute vs. Relative Change: The absolute change is significant for many countries, but this doesn't account for the relative change in terms of percentage increase or population growth. For example, a country with a small population that gained 1 million internet users may have a higher penetration rate increase than a large country that gained 10 million users.
  • Internet Users in 1990: A few countries had a notable number of internet users in 1990, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Finland, and Denmark, indicating that these countries were early adopters of the internet.


Largest Absolute Changes

  • China: The most populous country in the world, China, has witnessed the largest absolute increase, with over 1 billion internet users by 2020. This reflects China's rapid economic development and investment in digital infrastructure.
  • India: Following China, India has also seen a dramatic rise in internet users, with over 600 million by 2020. This is partly due to the country's population size and the recent push for digitalization.
  • United States: Starting with a considerable number of users in 1990 (around 1.95 million), the U.S. has grown to over 305 million users by 2020, reflecting widespread adoption across its population.

High Penetration Countries

  • Developed Nations: Countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK started with some users in 1990 and have nearly saturated their markets by 2020.
  • Small but Connected: Nations like Iceland and Luxembourg, while small in population, show high numbers of internet users, indicating a very high internet penetration rate.

Growth in Developing Countries

  • Many countries in Africa (e.g., Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa) and Southeast Asia (e.g., Indonesia and the Philippines) started with zero users in 1990 but have since seen tens of millions of individuals come online. This significant increase is a testament to the global reach of the internet and the influence of mobile connectivity.

Developed Nations with Early Adoption

  • Nordic Countries: Finland and Denmark had thousands of internet users by 1990, suggesting early adoption. By 2020, their internet user numbers are in the millions, which may be close to their total populations, given their smaller sizes.
  • European Leaders: Germany and the United Kingdom, too, show an early presence of internet users, with figures in the tens of thousands in 1990, growing into tens of millions by 2020.

Discrepancies and Anomalies

  • Data for some countries may be incomplete or reflect geopolitical changes. For example, data for Montenegro and Serbia may be affected by the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
  • South Sudan's data is not present for 1990, likely because it only became an independent country in 2011.

Considerations on Data and Trends

  • The dataset does not provide per capita internet usage or the percentage of the population with internet access. These figures would be necessary to understand the true penetration rate within each country.
  • The absolute numbers are striking, but they must be understood in the context of each country's population growth and development status over the 30 years.


The data illustrates a global digital revolution where internet access has gone from a novelty to a necessity. The trends suggest that by 2020, internet usage is a common aspect of life in most parts of the world, with developing countries showing the most significant margin of growth. The digital divide, however, still exists, with disparities in access and usage between developed and developing nations. The data also reflects the impact of policy, infrastructure, and economic factors on the adoption of the internet. As we look to the future, these numbers set the stage for understanding the ongoing digital transformation and its implications for global connectivity, commerce, and culture.