Broadband Internet is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with a majority of the world's population lacking internet access, according to the 2015 edition of the Broadband Commission’s ‘State of Broadband’ report.
While internet access is reaching near-saturation in the world’s rich nations it is failing to advance fast enough to benefit the billions of people living in the developing world, the report claims.
Indeed, 57% of the world’s population remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.
Access to information and communication technologies, particularly broadband Internet, has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of development, with the importance of ICT connectivity specifically recognised in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. With the 17 goals now firmly on the global agenda, governments and private industry both have a strong interest in finding ways to get people online, the report argues.
New figures in the report confirm that 3.2 billion people are now connected to the Internet, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population, but while access to the Internet is approaching saturation levels in the developed world, the net is only accessible to 35% of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated ‘least developed countries’ is particularly critical, with over 90% of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.
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“The UN Sustainable Development Goals remind us that we need to measure global development by the number of those being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO director general Irina Bokova. “The market has done its work connecting the world’s wealthier nations, where a strong business case for network roll-out can easily be made. Our important challenge now is to find ways of getting online the four billion people who still lack the benefits of Internet connectivity, and this will be a primary focus of the Broadband Commission going forward.”
Dr. Nasser Marafih, group CEO of Ooredoo and a commissioner on the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, said: “The report highlights the global challenge that sees millions of people unable to access the life-changing benefits of Internet access. We believe that the mobile broadband has the power to improve people’s lives, communities and countries, and are convinced that governments, operators and regulators need to work together to address this crucial issue.”
According to the ITU there will be a total of almost 3.5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions by end 2015, with industry analysts predicting 6.5 billion mobile broadband (3G/4G/5G) subscriptions by 2019, making mobile broadband the fastest growing ICT service in history. The report also stated that the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for half of all active mobile broadband subscriptions.
The ITU has forecast 25 billion networked devices to be active by 2020, meaning connected devices could outnumber connected people by 6:1.
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Produced annually by the Broadband Commission, The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.
The Broadband Commission comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of ICTs to drive new national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.
The State of Broadband 2015 is the fourth edition of the Commission’s broadband connectivity report. Released annually, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.