A third of the world's population will be internet users by the time 2010 is up, according to a new report published by the International Telecommunications Union.

The 2 billion figure, that is expected to reached soon, is double that of the web users figure of five years ago.

The boost is partly due to the developing world coming online - of the 226 million new surfers this year, more than two thirds come from this demographic.

However, there is still an obvious gulf. By the end of 2010, 71 per cent of net users will be from western countries, as opposed to 21 per cent from developing nations.

The ITU were keen to stress, however, that the net brings with it knowledge and opportunity. "It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity and underpin long-term economic competitiveness," aid ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure.

It was also pointed out though that the cost of getting online in countries will low incomes was "disproportionately high".

Another interesting note from the report was that mobile internet was "outstripping" broadband, with 90 per cent of the world's population having access to a mobile network.