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Africa lags behind world in internet access - ITU

By , freelance writer for ITWebAfrica.
Africa , 22 Sep 2015

Africa lags behind world in internet access - ITU

New data released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reveals 57% of the world's population still lacks access to the internet, with Africa performing as the worst region globally in terms of levels of connectivity.

The 2015 State of Broadband report has been released in the lead up to the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit to be hosted by the UN, at which new developmental targets will be set for the period up to 2030.

The report estimates that by the end of 2015, 3.2 billion people will be online, equating to over 43.4% of the total world population - up from 2.9 billion, or 40.6% of the population, in 2014.

However, this means that by the end of 2015, there will still be 57% of the world's population will still be offline. Further, the existing Broadband Commission target of getting 50% of the developing world online by 2020 is unlikely to be met, the report finds.

In Africa 10.7% of households have internet connection - the lowest regional figure and below global averages. The world average is 46.5%, while in the developing world the average figure is 34.1% of households.

Individual user internet penetration in Africa is 20.7 per 100 inhabitants - again, the lowest regional figure. The world average is 43.4 per 100 people, and the developing world average is 35.3 per 100 inhabitants.

Indeed, the lowest levels of internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with internet available to only 1.7% of the population of Guinea; 1.6% of Somalia's population; 1.4% of Burundians; and only 1% of Eritrea's population.

A breakdown of the types of internet connections available shows that Africa has 162 million mobile broadband subscriptions, accounting for 5% of the global total. This is a similar percentage figure to the Arab region, and the CIS region.

However, on the contrary, Africa has only 4 million fixed broadband subscriptions, which accounts for 0.01% of the global total - by far the lowest regional figure.

"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," Zhao said.

The ITU highlights the importance of connectivity and technologies in bringing about socio-economic development across the world, and said providing universal access to the internet should be a priority in the period to 2030.

"The 2030 Agenda recognises the power of new technologies to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide, to develop knowledge societies – we must do everything to support States in reaching these goals, especially developing States," said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova.

"This calls for stronger efforts by governments and all actors, in ensuring access, use and affordability – it requires also greater work to build the capacities of all women and men to make the most of all new opportunities."

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