Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

The CIA discovers 91 million missing Chinese Internet users

April 1, 2011: 8:25 AM ET

The Agency's country-by-county Internet count plays catch-up to Wikipedia

Click to enlarge. Data: CIA World Factbook

The last time we visited the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook -- a document that is supposed to be updated every week -- its "country comparison" list of Internet users seemed woefully out of date. Specifically, its December count of Internet users in China (298 million) differed from Wikipedia's (425 million) by 127 million people.

Wikipedia's numbers struck us as more credible for several reasons, and apparently the Agency agreed.

In February it issued an update that caught up to the user-generated encyclopedia, in some cases lifting its numbers from the same sources Wikipedia used. The most striking example is Nigeria, where the CIA counted 11 million users in December and Wikipedia counted 43,985,000 -- a 300% discrepancy. In the CIA's new database, Nigeria's Internet population is listed as 43,989,000.

As for China, there's a still a discrepancy of more than 60 million. But the CIA's new count (389 million) has come more than half way to meet Wikipedia's, thanks to the Agency's discovery of 91 million Chinese Internet users it missed the last time.

All this matters because many companies -- whether they know it or not -- rely on the U.S. government to stay on top of these things. Apple (AAPL), for example, likes to cite NetApplications to show how rapidly its Internet share is growing. NetApplications, in turns, weighs the county-by-county data it collects from client websites using -- you guessed it -- the CIA Factbook.

Below: The CIA's current list of the top 50 Internet countries (and the increase from December).

Rank Country Number of  users Percent of the Internet Change from 2010 Percent change
1 China 389,000,000 21.39% 91,000,000 30.5%
2 USA 245,000,000 13.47% 14,000,000 6.1%
3 Japan 99,182,000 5.45% 8,272,000 9.1%
4 Brazil 75,982,000 4.18% 11,034,000 17.0%
5 Germany 65,125,000 3.58% 3,152,000 5.1%
6 India 61,338,000 3.37% -19,662,000 -24.3%
7 United Kingdom 51,444,000 2.83% 2,689,000 5.5%
8 France 45,262,000 2.49% 2,350,000 5.5%
9 Nigeria 43,989,000 2.42% 32,989,000 299.9%
10 Russia 40,853,000 2.25% -4,397,000 -9.7%
11 South Korea 39,400,000 2.17% 1,924,000 5.1%
12 Mexico 31,020,000 1.71% 7,760,000 33.4%
13 Italy 29,235,000 1.61% 4,243,000 17.0%
14 Spain 28,119,000 1.55% 2,879,000 11.4%
15 Turkey 27,233,000 1.50% 2,750,000 11.2%
16 Canada 26,960,000 1.48% 1,874,000 7.5%
17 Vietnam 23,382,000 1.29% 2,548,000 12.2%
18 Colombia 22,538,000 1.24% 5,421,000 31.7%
19 Poland 22,452,000 1.23% 3,773,000 20.2%
20 Pakistan 20,431,000 1.12% 1,931,000 10.4%
21 Egypt 20,136,000 1.11% 8,722,000 76.4%
22 Indonesia 20,000,000 1.10% -10,000,000 -33.3%
23 Thailand 17,483,000 0.96% 1,383,000 8.6%
24 Taiwan 16,147,000 0.89% 1,004,000 6.6%
25 Australia 15,810,000 0.87% 640,000 4.2%
26 Malaysia 15,355,000 0.84% -1,548,000 -9.2%
27 Netherlands 14,872,000 0.82% 599,000 4.2%
28 Argentina 13,694,000 0.75% 2,482,000 22.1%
29 Morocco 13,213,000 0.73% 2,913,000 28.3%
30 Saudi Arabia 9,774,000 0.54% 2,074,000 26.9%
31 Peru 9,158,000 0.50% 2,030,000 28.5%
32 Venezuela 8,918,000 0.49% 1,751,000 24.4%
33 Sweden 8,398,000 0.46% 298,000 3.7%
34 Philippines 8,278,000 0.46% 2,660,000 47.3%
35 Iran 8,214,000 0.45% -14,786,000 -64.3%
36 Belgium 8,113,000 0.45% 821,000 11.3%
37 Romania 7,787,000 0.43% 1,655,000 27.0%
38 Ukraine 7,770,000 0.43% -2,584,000 -25.0%
39 Chile 7,009,000 0.39% 1,553,000 28.5%
40 Czech Republic 6,681,000 0.37% 653,000 10.8%
41 Hungary 6,176,000 0.34% 303,000 5.2%
42 Switzerland 6,152,000 0.34% 413,000 7.2%
43 Austria 6,143,000 0.34% 206,000 3.5%
44 Kazakhstan 5,299,000 0.29% 2,999,000 130.4%
45 Portugal 5,168,000 0.28% 692,000 15.5%
46 Greece 4,971,000 0.27% 718,000 16.9%
47 Hong Kong 4,873,000 0.27% 749,000 18.2%
48 Denmark 4,750,000 0.26% 171,000 3.7%
49 Algeria 4,700,000 0.26% 600,000 14.6%
50 Uzbekistan 4,689,000 0.26% 2,220,000 89.9%

For the full list, click here.

Also on Fortune.com:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

Email | @philiped | RSS
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.