The internet and the developing world
Already, the strongest growth in number of users - and the sheer largest number of users overall - is in developing countries.
The internet may have its roots in Silicon Valley, but statistics show that its future will be decidedly international. Already, the strongest growth in number of users - and the sheer largest number of users overall - is in developing countries. Europe and North America now have the highest proportion of internet users among their entire populations, but the overall number of users is dwarfed by countries in the developing world.
China had a population penetration of internet users of only 34 percent in 2010, but that rate was growing at 20 percent per year, according to the International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations. What's more, the total number of internet users in China in 2010 - some 459 million - was already nearly double that of the US, where 244 million people were accessing the internet. Popular sites in China include the marketplaces Taobao and 360buy.com, which had more than 40 million registered users in early 2012 and processed 400,000 orders a month.
India is on the rise
In India in 2011, 121million people were estimated to be internet-users. If that sounds like a lot, then it's nothing compared to the overall Indian population, which stands at 1.2billion. In such a big country, then, 121million is a low figure; and, if internet growth was standing still, it would be unremarkable. But internet growth in India isn't standing still. According to research aggregated by wearesocial.net, it is growing exponentially: 2011 saw 25 per cent growth in Indian internet users over just 12 months.
With more and more of its citizens online, E-Commerce in India is on the rise. In 2011, it was estimated that the value of online business in India had reached $10billion. Popular sites in India include 20North.com, offering electronics, books, music and movies; the fashion site 99labels.com; and Dealsandyou.com, which features deals and discounts on a variety of products.
Smartphone as an indicator
In South Africa, smartphone users also represent the future potential of internet growth. At the end of 2010, 6.8million South Africans were using the internet; but by the end of 2011, that figure had increased to 8.5million; and by the end of 2012 it is estimated to topple the 10million mark.
E-commerce in South Africa is growing accordingly, as noted in an Internet Economic Impact Study survey by independent technology research and strategy organization, World Wide Worx, published in May 2012. The result, says Goldstuck, is that an Internet economy worth R59- billion in 2011 and making up 2% of the SA economy could grow to as much as 2.5% of the economy by 2016.