Who’s online? Mapping Internet use around the world : World Bank data on national income and Internet use

The FRED Blog has looked at the speed of Internet adoption in a few countries: the U.S., China, Korea, Germany, and India. Today, we use World Bank data to widen our view and map Internet use rates around the world. Then we connect those rates to countries’ per capita GDPs.

Our first GeoFRED map identifies the number of Internet users per 100 people in each country. In countries colored blue, over 80% of the population uses the Internet: Liechtenstein is at the top, with a ratio of 99.55%. In countries colored red, under 20% of the population uses the Internet: Eritrea is at the bottom, with a ratio of 1.31%.

Our second map shows inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) per person. In countries colored blue, GDP per person (at 2010 prices) is more than $28,000 per year: Monaco, where the figure is above $186,000, is at the top. In countries colored red, GDP per person is less than $1,600: Burundi, where the figure is $214, is at the bottom.

Consider the examples of Austria, Belgium, Finland, and Germany, which have Internet use rates of 84% to 88% and per capita GDPs of $48,000 to $50,000. Now consider that Cambodia, Honduras, India, and Sudan have Internet use rates of 31% to 32% and per capita GDPs of $1,000 to $2,000.

Comparing the maps reveals the close correspondence between Internet use rates in the population and GDP per capita. Access to the Internet requires investment in physical capital, so its positive correlation with prosperity is pretty much expected. The scatterplot below also illustrates this overall relationship (read from left to right and from bottom to top) between the two variables for the 184 nations and territories during 2017:

To account for their large range of variation, the values of constant GDP per capita are plotted in logarithms. Each dot represents a country and the general shape of the dot cloud indicates a positive relationship between income levels and Internet use: On average, the richer the country, the larger the fraction of its population that is online.

By the way, more countries and territories report their Internet use than their GDP per capita. The production of economic information, much like the provision of internet services, requires investment.

How these maps were created: For the first map, go to GeoFRED and click the green “Build New Map” button. In the cog-wheel tool menu, use the drop-down menu under “Data” to find “Internet users by Nation” and select “2017” for the date. Next, click on “Edit Legend” tab and choose “Interval Method: Equal Interval.” Last, click on the “Choose Colors” tab and take your pick. For the second map, find “Constant GDP per capita” and select “2017” for the date. Next, click on “Edit Legend” tab and choose “Interval Method: Fractile.” Last, click on the “Choose Colors” tab and take your pick.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.