By the end of 2017, the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions in LDCs(least developed countries) had increased to about 700 million, with a penetration of 70 percent. At the same time, more than 80 percent of the population in LDCs live within range of a mobile cellular network.
All 47 LDCs have launched 3G services and over 60 per cent of their population are covered by a 3G network, according a recent ITU report, ICTs, LDCs and the SDGs: Achieving universal and affordable Internet in the least developed countries. These countries are also on track to reach on average 97 per cent mobile broadband coverage and to make Internet prices relatively affordable by 2020. These figures are indicative of the impressive progress made by the LDCs toward achieving United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9.c on increasing access to ICT.
"This report provides insights into the great strides that LDCs have made in regard to ICT access, and the opportunities digital technologies offer in accelerating the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals," said Brahima Sanou, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau. "Universal and affordable internet access can help LDCs to leap-frog in various areas, including education, health, government services, and trade. ICT services can also deliver innovative resources and applications and trigger new business opportunities."
The report also identifies key barriers to ICT and internet use in LDCs, including the lack of digital skills. To address the digital skills gap, the report encourages governments to adopt strategic ICT sector plans on building digital skills and enhancing collaboration with the education sector. The report also highlights the importance of policy makers addressing broader socio-economic challenges that lie outside the ICT ecosystem, such as educational levels and gender equality. The report develops a three-dimensional framework on infrastructure, affordability and skills to help LDCs identify challenges and accelerate growth to bring more people online.