The UN ITU report says many are still not using the Internet, and most do not fully benefit from its potential.
A new report has revealed that almost half of the world’s population will use the internet by the end of this year due to the decline in smartphone prices and growth of mobile networks.
The UN International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Measuring the Information Society Report noted that the world is getting more and more connected and there are vast investment opportunities for the private sector to connect the unconnected.
It is expected that there will be almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as there people at the end of this year and 95% of the worldwide population will live in an area that is covered by a mobile-cellular signal.
Globally, 47% of the population is online, still far short of a UN target of 60% by 2020.
Some 3.9 billion people, more than half the global population, do not have home or mobile internet access and the problem is acute among the world’s “female, elderly, less educated, lower income and rural areas.
ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said: “To bring more people online, it is important to focus on reducing overall socio-economic inequalities.
“Education and income levels are strong determinants of whether or not people use the Internet. ICTs will be essential in meeting each and every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and this report plays an important role in the SDG process.”
The spread of 3G and 4G networks across the world bought the Internet to more and more people, ITU said, noting that mobile-broadband networks covered 84% of the world’s population in 2016.
ITU urged policy-makers to address broader socio-economic inequalities and help people acquire the required skills to take full advantage of the Internet.
The report revealed that many people still do not own or use a mobile phone. In developing economies where recent household data is available, nearly 20% of the population is still not using a mobile phone.
Most people who do not own or use a mobile phone are among the youngest, aged 5 to 14 years, and those more than 74 years old segments of the population.
The report said, while the world as whole improved, differences in the levels of ICT development between countries and regions persisted.
Europe led the way in ICT development and there was also progress in number of countries in the Americas, as did those in the Commonwealth of Independent States region.
While several Asian and Pacific countries made significant advances while nine out of its 34 countries including several with large populations, were least connected.
The worst performing region was Africa where average ICT Development Index for 2016 was 2.48 points, just over half the global average (4.94).