Mobile technology has spread rapidly around the globe. Today, it is estimated that more than 5 billion people have mobile devices, and over half of these connections are smartphones. But the growth in mobile technology to date has not been equal, either across nations or within them. People in advanced economies are more likely to have mobile phones – smartphones in particular – and are more likely to use the internet and social media than people in emerging economies. For example, a median of 76% across 18 advanced economies surveyed have smartphones, compared with a median of only 45% in emerging economies.

Smartphone ownership can vary widely by country, even across advanced economies. While around nine-in-ten or more South Koreans, Israelis and Dutch people own smartphones, ownership rates are closer to six-in-ten in other developed nations like Poland, Russia and Greece. In emerging economies, too, smartphone ownership rates vary substantially, from highs of 60% in South Africa and Brazil to just around four-in-ten in Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria. Among the surveyed countries, ownership is lowest in India, where only 24% report having a smartphone.

Whether in advanced or emerging economies, younger people, those with higher levels of education and those with higher incomes are more likely to be digitally connected.12 Younger people in every country surveyed are much more likely to have smartphones, access the internet and use social media. In all of the advanced economies surveyed, large majorities under the age of 35 own a smartphone. In contrast, smartphone ownership among advanced economies’ older populations varies widely, ranging from just about a quarter of Russians 50 and older to about nine-in-ten older South Koreans.

Education and income level also play sizable roles when it comes to explaining differences in technological use in most countries. In every country surveyed, better-educated and higher-income people are more likely to use the internet than people with lower levels of education or income. And in nearly every country, the same is true of social media use. The education gaps in emerging economies are especially wide. For example, a majority of Nigerians with a secondary education or more use social media (58%) compared with just 10% of Nigerians with less education, for a gap of 48 percentage points. The education gap in internet use is an even wider 53 points: 65% of more-educated Nigerians use the internet compared with just 12% of those with lower levels of education. .. see more