Something tells me they are probably better off than us. View attachment 34719 Despite an increase in global Internet usage and efforts to boost international Web access, some 4 billion people remain offline. Over the last 15 years, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has seen the number of global Internet users increase from 400 million to an expected 3.2 billion by year's end. Along the way, however, many billions of people were left by the wayside, without access to email, texts, social media, digital maps, or even statistics about themselves. Industry heavyweights like Facebook and Google are working to bring free or cheap Internet access to emerging markets, teaming with local ISPs or launching balloon-based Internet service. Internet.org and Google's Project Loon are still in their infancy, but ITU announced that between 2000 and 2015, Internet penetration overall increased almost seven fold from 6.5 to 43 percent of the global population. "These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date," ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao said in a statement. "But also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy." Mobile users are keeping pace, too, according to ITU's forecast, which suggests that, by the end of the year, there will be more than 7 billion mobile subscribers worldwide—up from fewer than 1 billion in 2000. Global cellular penetration is set to reach 47 percent this year, while at the same time, 69 percent of the global population will reportedly be covered by 3G mobile broadband, up from 45 percent in 2011. Of the 3.4 billion people in rural areas, meanwhile, about 29 percent will be covered by 3G broadband this year, the ITU said. "ICTs [information and communication technologies] will play an even more significant role in the post-2015 era and in achieving future sustainable development goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society," said Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. "Our mission," he added, "is to connect everyone and to create a truly inclusive information society."