There's something that seems a little not quite right with the latest numbers in the Facebook-commissioned "Inclusive Internet Index". Or maybe it's just surprising - either way, the numbers highlight some interesting data points around global connection to the web.
Formulated in partnership with The Economist, the Inclusive Internet Index lists nations based on internet accessibility, and ranks them on a range of key factors.
And according to Facebook, now, more people than ever are able to access the world wide web:
"Last year was a watershed moment in the history of the internet. It was the first full year when more than half of the world’s population - 4.1 billion people - got online. Reaching 4.1 billion people online is a monumental achievement, but now comes the hard part. More than 3.5 billion people remain unconnected to the internet and the opportunities it provides to strengthen communities, give people a voice and create economic impact."
That makes sense, and is in line with past indicators of where web accessibility should be. But when matched with Facebook's own overall usage numbers, based on its 'Family of Apps' listing in its recent performance update, that would put Facebook's user penetration at an extremely high rate.
That, too, makes sense - there are a lot of Facebook users, and with improved connectivity, more people are able to access Facebook's tools.
But when you also take into account that around 26% of people in the world are under the age of 15 (Facebook and Instagram require users to be 13 to sign up, WhatsApp 16), that reduces the potential pool of all people who could possibly use Facebook's apps, based on these new connectivity figures, to around 3.03b people worldwide. Account for this, that would mean that around 75% of the people who can access Facebook's apps are using them, an incredibly high penetration rate.
Could that be right? Is Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram being used by 75% of all people in the world with internet access? That would incorporate elderly people too, a staggering usage marker.
It's no wonder that Facebook is working so hard to connect the remaining 3.5 billion, given that the vast majority, based on evidence, will also likely become Facebook users.
In its summary of the report, Facebook notes that connectivity growth has slowed in the lowest-income countries, but has grown in lower-middle income regions. Facebook also notes that mobile connectivity has become more affordable and more accessible, paving the way for improved access moving forward.
In addressing the need for improved connection, Facebook is developing its Terragraph, Magma and satellite-based Wi-Fi solutions, while it also continues to work with local operators and authorities to establish better systems around such.
It's amazing to think that so many people still don't have internet access, while it also highlights the ongoing opportunities of connectivity, and linking the remainder of the world to the web.
That also, as noted, means increased potential for Facebook and other web operators. While developing regions are a long way off becoming viable, valuable audiences, in a monetization sense, the more Facebook can expand, the greater its potential to build more business tools and options for these users.
And at such high penetration rates, Facebook indeed looks set to win out from the increased connectivity push.
You can read the full Inclusive Internet Index here.