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World’s Poorest Left Far Behind  Despite COVID-19 Connectivity Boost

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the number of people who have gone online this year went up, to 4.9 billion but people’s ability to connect remains profoundly unequal – as many hundreds of millions might only go online infrequently, using shared devices or facing connection speeds that hamper their internet use.
01 Dec 2021 19:13
Some 2.9 billion people still have never used the internet, despite an increase in the number of people who have gone online this year, partially because of a “COVID connectivity boost”.  

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the number of people who have gone online this year went up, to 4.9 billion but people’s ability to connect remains profoundly unequal – as many hundreds of millions might only go online infrequently, using shared devices or facing connection speeds that hamper their internet use.

“While almost two-thirds of the world's population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet," ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, said.

According to a report released this evening, 96 per cent of those who have never connected to the internet live in developing countries like Uganda. The report found that younger people, men and urban dwellers are more likely to use the Internet than older adults, women and those in rural areas, mainly because of poverty, illiteracy, limited electricity access and a lack of digital skills.

Zhao added that ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion people and ensure that no one will be left behind.

The UN agency’s report found that the unusually sharp rise in the number of people online suggests that measures taken during the pandemic contributed to the “COVID connectivity boost.” There were an estimated 782 million additional people who went online since 2019, an increase of 17 per cent due to measures such as lockdowns, school closures and the need to access services like remote banking. 

According to the document, users globally grew by more than 10 per cent in the first year of the COVID crisis, which was the largest annual increase in a decade. But it pointed out that growth has been uneven. Internet access is often unaffordable in poorer nations and almost three-quarters of people have never been online in the 46 least-developed countries. 

Speaking in Geneva, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU said: “The internet divide runs deep between developed and developing countries. Only a third of the population in Africa is using the internet.