The number of households connected to the internet has improved by 8.3% to just under half (48.6%), according to the latest Inclusive Internet Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The Facebook-sponsored index tracks internet connectivity across 70 countries worldwide and assigns rankings based on connectivity metrics to 86 countries worldwide.
The 2018 index, published during Mobile World Congress, shows that average household internet penetration improved from 44.9% to 48.6% from 2017 to 2018.
Among low-income countries included in the Index, the average percentage of connected households increased by 65.1% from 8% to 13.2% of households.
Meanwhile coverage of 4G services expanded rapidly, particularly in markets including Indonesia where it surged by 658.8%. Globally, the average price of a 500MB prepaid mobile data plan as a percentage of monthly income fell from nearly 3.3% last year to just 2.9% in 2018.
The index shows that Singapore came first in Asia-Pacific and second globally behind only Sweden when ranked according to measures of internet availability, affordability and capacity to access the internet as well as the availability of local language content.
South Korea came second in APAC and fifth globally, followed by Japan (11th globally), Taiwan (19th globally), Australia (25th globally), Malaysia (28th globally) and Thailand (31st globally).
Rounding out the list of APAC countries were China (36th globally), Mongolia (42nd globally), Vietnam (43rd globally), India (47th globally), Indonesia (49th globally), Sri Lanka (52nd globally), the Philippines (54th globally), Bangladesh (62nd globally), Myanmar (65th globally), Nepal (70th globally) and Cambodia (equal 72nd globally).
The report meanwhile shows a still significant but closing gender gap in terms of access to the internet. Among all countries included in the index, the proportion of men that access the Internet is, on average, 33.5% higher than the proportion of women – and this raises to 80.2% among low income countries.
A related survey conducted by EIU found that just under six in ten respondents in Asia and MEA agreed that the use of the internet has helped them become more independent.