The number of mobile devices and internet users continues to grow rapidly around the world. There are more than five billion unique mobile users and over four billion internet users in the world today. This represents an increase of more than 2% and 9% respectively since 2018. There has also been a 9% increase in the number of social media users, to over 3.5 billion.
Increasing mobile internet access is facilitating greater use of online gaming, cashless payments, e-commerce and Internet of Things (IOT), including devices such as baby monitors, internet-connected toys and webcam-enabled devices. These products are becoming cheaper and longer-lasting, with second-hand devices becoming more accessible to low-income consumers in developing nations.
These developments are enabling nations in the Global South to achieve technology parity with the Global North. However, the North has experienced a comparatively gentle evolution of domestic internet and mobile technologies over the past two decades. Nations of the South are moving rapidly from limited access to reliable, high-speed internet services and to 4G and 5G mobile networks. This bypasses the need to establish costly fixed-line and broadband infrastructure.
Meanwhile, secure online services are also expanding rapidly, enabling offender communities to use Dark Web sites and other tools to share images and tips for grooming children and evading detection. These are amplified by the easily availability of ‘consumer-ready’ Surface Web services that enable greater privacy, security and anonymity. These include secure Peer2Peer file-sharing networks, hosting services which disguise child sexual abuse material on mainstream websites, and mobile payment services and messaging services that bypass the need for registration and identification.