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8 charts on technology use around the world

This has everything that brings joy to my inner being. We've got bar charts, a few maps, some scatter plots & a curvy drawing with nations plotted on an X/Y axis.


Some people like human interest stories, but I prefer big data. Then again, I'm an emotionless monster. Come to think of it, I'm a lot like ChatGPT with a larger appetite.


8 charts on technology use around the world

BY JACOB POUSHTER, SNEHA GUBBALA AND SARAH AUSTIN


While internet use is nearly ubiquitous in many countries, not everyone is online. Divides still exist on technology usage between people in some advanced economies and those in some emerging economies, according to Pew Research Center data from 27 countries in 2022 and 2023.


Smartphone ownership and social media use also vary around the world. While most adults in the countries surveyed own smartphones and use social media, there are still pockets where many do not.


In addition, there are divides within countries on internet use, smartphone ownership and social media use based on demographic factors such as age, education and income. Almost universally, younger people and those with more education and income are more likely to be online, own a smartphone and use social media.


This is the first post in a series about internet use worldwide. The next post will focus on social media’s perceived influence on democracy. Data for this series was collected over two years using various methods, including online, face-to-face and telephone interviews.


Here are eight charts about technology use around the world.

A majority of adults in all countries surveyed use the internet. Internet users are defined as people who say they use the internet at least occasionally or have access to the internet via a smartphone.


In most countries surveyed, around nine-in-ten or more adults are online. At the upper bound, 99% of South Koreans are online.


Comparatively fewer adults are online in India (56%), Nigeria (57%) and Kenya (66%). Still, internet use in these countries continues to grow as economic outcomes improve and technology becomes more widespread.


Within countries, however, internet use remains highly dependent on demographic factors such as age, education and income.




In every country surveyed, adults ages 18 to 39 are significantly more likely than those 40 and older to use the internet. These gaps are especially large in several of the middle-income countries surveyed in 2023.


For example, 73% of adults in India who are younger than 40 say they use the internet, compared with 36% of Indians 40 and older. Similar gaps exist in Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico and Poland.


Differences by age in advanced economies are relatively small. In just over half of these countries, internet use among 18- to 39-year-olds is universal, at 100%.




In all countries surveyed, adults with more education are more likely than those with less to use the internet. As with age, the education gap on internet use is most pronounced among people in emerging economies, such as India and Nigeria. In these countries, those with more education are about twice as likely as those with less education to use the internet.


Large gaps by educational attainment also exist in Indonesia, Kenya, Poland and South Africa. (Because education systems differ by country, the levels of education for “more education” and “less education” also vary. Read the “How we did this” section for more information.)


Similarly, adults with higher incomes are much more likely than those with lower incomes to use the internet.



Rates of smartphone ownership are highest in South Korea, where 98% report owning a smartphone, and lowest in India and Nigeria, where fewer than 50% do. (Refer to the appendix for types of smartphones given as examples in each country.)


Around three-quarters or more of adults in advanced economies in North America, Europe and Asia say they have smartphones.


However, two-in-ten or more in India, Kenya and South Africa say they own a mobile phone that is not a smartphone. In Nigeria, 42% say this.


And in India, three-in-ten say they do not own a mobile phone at all – the highest share of any country surveyed.




Smartphone ownership tends to be higher in countries with higher per-capita gross domestic product. Similar patterns also appear within countries: In nearly every country surveyed, people with incomes above the national median are more likely than those with lower incomes to report owning a smartphone.


These differences are largest in Hungary, Israel and Poland, where people with higher incomes are around 30 percentage points more likely than those with lower incomes to have a smartphone.




Adults with more education and older adults are more likely than their counterparts to own a smartphone in every country surveyed. In India, around three-quarters of those with at least a secondary school education own a smartphone, compared with around one-third of people with less education.


Large gaps also exist in Mexico (36 percentage points), Kenya (34 points), South Africa (32 points) and Nigeria (30 points).


In addition, adults ages 18 to 39 are more likely than their elders to own smartphones in nearly every country surveyed. For example, 98% of younger adults in Hungary say they own a smartphone, compared with 65% of adults 40 and older.




Roughly half or more of adults in 26 countries say they use social media sites. Social media use is most common in Argentina, Brazil and Malaysia, where over eight-in-ten report using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter (now known as X) and Instagram.


But social media use is widespread across most surveyed countries. Majorities in all but two countries report using social media.


In Europe, Germany (51%) is the only country where fewer than six-in-ten adults say they use social media. And in the Asia-Pacific region, India (47%) is the only country where fewer than seven-in-ten say this.




Adults under age 40 are more likely than their elders to use social media. In every country surveyed, the difference between younger and older adults is greater than 10 percentage points.




The gap is biggest in Poland, where 98% of adults under age 40 use social media sites. Only about half (48%) of their older counterparts say the same. In Germany, Hungary, India and Indonesia, there are also differences of 40 points or more.

The gap is smallest in Israel, where 72% of those 40 and older report using social media, compared with 85% of younger adults.


A 2022 Center report found that the age gap in social media use has narrowed over time across 19 advanced economies. That is because older adults’ rate of using social media has increased more quickly than that of younger adults in a number of countries.

In some countries, those on the political left are also more likely than those on the right to use social media. For example, eight-in-ten Hungarians who place themselves on the ideological left report using social media sites, while about six-in-ten of those on the right say the same.




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