Internet users to exceed 2 billion by the end of 2010

Nigerians browse the internet at a cybercafe in Lagos The developed world still outstrips the developing world in terms of connections

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One third of the world's population will be online by the end of the year, according to United Nations statistics.

The number of people online has doubled to two billion in the last five years, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said.

Of the 226m new net users that have come online this year, more than two thirds are from developing countries.

However, the data show that connections in the developed world still outstrip those in the developing world.

The report suggests that 71% of people in western countries will be online by the end of 2010, compared to just 21% in developing countries.

The ITU believes that broadband is a "transformational technology" that can be used to spur development.

"It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity and underpin long-term economic competitiveness," aid ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure.

However it warned that prices remained disproportionately high, particularly in those countries with low incomes.

Earlier this year, the ITU revealed that the Central African Republic was the most expensive place to get a fixed broadband connection, costing nearly 40 times the average monthly income there.

Macao in China was the cheapest, costing 0.3% of the average monthly income.

Although broadband use is increasing it has been outstripped by mobile connections, the statistics reveal.

It says that more than 90% of the world's population has access to a mobile network.

It estimates that there will be 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2010, of which 3.8 billion will be in the developing world.

The developed world, it says, is reaching saturation for mobile subscribers with around 116 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

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