The ITU/UNESCO broadband commission’s annual 'The State of Broadband' report was released on 15 September 2016 in Geneva. Released just ahead of the 14th meeting of the Commission in New York on September 18, The State of Broadband 2016 is optimistic about the potential of mobile broadband, with 165 countries now having deployed '4G' high-speed mobile networks.
While Internet access is approaching saturation in richer nations, connectivity is still not advancing fast enough to help bridge development gaps in areas like education and health care for those in poorer parts of the world. Globally, an estimated 3.9 billion people are not using the Internet.
"There is a large body of economic evidence for the role of affordable broadband connectivity as a vital enabler of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection," said ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-vice chair of the commission with UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova. "The sustainable development goals for education, gender equality and infrastructure include bold targets for information and communication technology. The SDGs are achievable, but require urgent efforts and progress in the speed, degree and equality of development. The commission believes this can be realised through broadband."
"Broadband technologies can be powerful development multipliers," director-general Bokova added, "but this requires combined investments in access and in skills and in education. This is about opening new paths to create and share knowledge. It is about enhancing freedom of expression and about widening learning opportunities, especially for girls and women. This is about developing content that is relevant, local and multilingual."
This year's figures show that, once again, the top ten developing countries for household Internet penetration are all located in Asia or the Middle East. The Republic of Korea continues to have the world's highest household Internet penetration, with 98.8% of homes connected; Qatar (96%), United Arab Emirates (95%) and Saudi Arabia (94%) rank second, third, and fourth respectively.
Iceland continues to have the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet (98.2%). The numbers are 93.48% for Bahrain, 92.88% for Qatar, 91.24% for the UAE, and 69.62% for Saudi Arabia.
Monaco is the world leader in fixed broadband penetration, at over 47 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. The United Arab Emirates has 12.81 subscriptions per 100; while the numbers for Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar are 22.76, 12.01 and 10.06 respectively.
Finland has the world's highest percentage of active mobile broadband subscriptions, with 144 subscriptions per 100 people, followed by Singapore (142) and Kuwait (139). The Asia-Pacific region accounts for nearly half (48%) of all active mobile broadband subscriptions.
In total, there are now 91 economies where over 50% of the population is online, up from 79 in 2015. But whereas in 2014 the top ten countries for Internet use were all located in Europe, this year sees Bahrain (ranked 7th) and Japan (ranked 9th) join the group. The lowest levels of Internet usage are found in sub-Saharan Africa, with less than 3% of the population using the Internet in a number of countries including Chad (2.7%), Sierra Leone (2.5%), Niger (2.2%), Somalia (1.8%) and Eritrea (1.1%).
In September 2015, UN Member States and the UN General assembly formally agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and set out a global agenda for development based on economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, known as the ‘2030 agenda for sustainable development’. The ITU/UNESCO broadband commission for Sustainable Development is united in its belief that broadband can play a vital role in achieving the SDGs.