The Cloud

U.N. Highlights Continuing Digital Divide

A new report finds the Internet is still only available to 35% of people in developing countries and the access growth rate is slowing.
Matthew HellerSeptember 22, 2015
U.N. Highlights Continuing Digital Divide

The digital divide is proving “stubbornly persistent,” with Internet access reaching near-saturation in the world’s rich nations but only one in 10 people in the 48 poorest countries being connected, the United Nations Broadband Commission says in a new report.

According to “The State of Broadband 2015,” 3.2 billion people are now online, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population. But that leaves 4.2 billion of the world’s people who still do not have regular access to the Internet and, in developing countries, the net is still only available to 35% of the population.

Women in poorer countries were particularly disadvantaged, the report said. In the developing world, 25% fewer women than men had Internet access, a number that rises to 50% in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Learn how NetSuite Financial Management allows you to quickly and easily model what-if scenarios and generate reports.

“[T]he digital divide is proving stubbornly persistent in terms of access to broadband Internet,” the Broadband Commission said.

The UN has set a target that 60% of the world’s population will be online by 2020. But the access growth rate is expected to slow to 8.1% this year, down from 8.6% in 2014. Until 2012, growth rates had been in double digits for years.

“Alarmingly, there are indications that Internet growth is slowing,” the report said, citing the cost of extending last-mile infrastructure to rural and remote customers and a sharp slowdown in the growth of mobile cellular subscriptions globally.

The UN’s International Telecommunication Union estimates there will be 121 countries with mobile cellular penetration in excess of 100% by the end of 2015.

The report recommends that countries “adopt effective policies and strategies to make broadband available, affordable and accessible, as a vital enabler of sustainable development in modern-day knowledge societies.”

Iceland has the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet (98.2%), just ahead of Norway (96.3%) and Denmark (96%). At the other end of the scale, the Internet is available to less than 2% of the population in Guinea (1.7%), Somalia (1.6%), Burundi (1.4%), Timor Leste, (1.1%) and Eritrea (1.0%).