KIGALI, 6th June, 2022 (WAM) — The immense potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains largely untapped despite 30 years of steady growth, according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialized organization of the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies.
Launched to coincide with the opening of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, the Global Connectivity Report 2022 argues that while easy and affordable access to fast broadband is nearly ubiquitous in most rich countries, large swaths of humanity remain excluded from the immense possibilities offered by the online experience, stunting economic development and widening global inequalities.
While the number of Internet users has grown from a few million in the early 1990s to almost five billion today, 2.9 billion people – roughly one third of humanity – remain completely disconnected, and several hundred million more struggle with expensive and poor services. – quality access that does little to materially improve their lives.
The report advocates placing “universal and meaningful connectivity” – defined as the possibility of a safe, satisfying, rewarding, productive and affordable online experience for all – at the center of global development.
It also assesses how close the world is to achieving this universal and meaningful connectivity, using the 2030 connectivity goals recently released by ITU and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Technology. .
The cost of broadband subscriptions and digital devices remains a major barrier to connectivity, the report confirms. While Internet access has become increasingly cheaper in wealthier countries, Internet access remains prohibitively expensive in many low- and lower-middle-income countries.
And although the cost of broadband – particularly mobile broadband – has come down significantly over the past decade, the majority of low- and middle-income economies are still below the global affordability target of 2 % or less of gross national income per capita set by Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
“Equitable access to digital technologies is not only a moral responsibility, it is essential for global prosperity and sustainability,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We need to create the right conditions, including by promoting investment-friendly environments, to break cycles of exclusion and bring digital transformation to all.”
While the surge in COVID-related demand for internet access has brought some 800 million more people online, it has also dramatically increased the cost of digital exclusion, with people unable to connect being abruptly deprived of access. employment, education, access to health advice, financial services, and much more.
“Universal and meaningful connectivity has become the global imperative of our decade,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produced the report. “It’s no longer just about connecting people – the catalytic role of connectivity will also be absolutely critical to our success in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”