The BBC put together a great interactive graphic that traces the percentage of a nation’s populace that uses the internet every year, from 1998 to 2008–kind of a shorthand for development over the last decade.
The chart darkens each country as its internet-using percentage rises, so you can see the entire world get dramatically darker as the decade goes on. The description from 1998:
In 1998, just a few countries–Iceland, Sweden, and New Zealand–had extensive internet usage. In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country of 68 million, had just 200 internet users.
In 1998, most of the world had less than 6% internet usage, including just about all of South America, Asia, Africa, and even most of Western Europe (besides Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Scandinavia). By 2008, North America, almost all of South America, Europe, Australia, and East Asia were all completely dark.
Interesting findings: China, despite having the most internet users in the world by 2008 (298 million, compared to the US’s 230.6 million), is still less than a 25% connected. Likewise, India has 50 million users, more than the UK, France, or Russia, but due to its massive population receives the lightest color possible, signifying a sub-6% connectivity. South Asia, the former Soviet republics, South Pacific Islands, and pretty much all of Africa besides a few Mediterranean countries are lagging behind the rest of the world in internet users. But it’s the odd spots of white in the midst of dark areas that really stick out–Suriname, Bolivia, Ukraine, and Albania are all surrounded by internet-using countries, but are not very connected themselves.
Check out the graphic over at the BBC–it really is a marvel how far we’ve come in ten years.