The number of Internet users is growing, but 37 percent of the world's inhabitants still do not have access to it. This means that 2.9 billion people have never used the benefits of the world wide web. For many of them, these services are too expensive, and for others they are not available due to the lack of digital skills. These are the data of the new report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
It is projected that there will be 4.9 billion people connected by the end of 2021, up from 4.1 billion in 2019. ITU experts believe this is good news in terms of global development. However, the overall evidence suggests huge digital inequalities.
Of the 2.9 billion people who are still not connected to the Internet, about 96 percent live in developing countries. And even among the 4.9 billion people who are considered to be Internet users, many hundreds of millions of people rarely have the opportunity to go online.
“Currently, almost two-thirds of the world's population is connected to the Internet, but there is still a lot to be done to connect everyone to it,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “ITU will work with all parties to ensure that the structural mechanisms are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion people.”
Experts note that the measures taken during the pandemic have contributed to an increase in the number of Internet connections. In two years, the number of network users has grown by 17 percent. Many were forced to connect, as this was the only opportunity to study, work, receive news and pay for utilities. But not everyone could afford to buy the appropriate phones, computers or laptops, or pay for Internet services.
The number of internet users worldwide grew by more than 10 percent in the first year of the pandemic, the largest annual increase in a decade. At the same time, as experts note, new connections took place in developing countries.
However, the problem was not resolved. In least developed countries, nearly three quarters of people have never gone online. The main reasons are poverty, illiteracy, limited access to electricity, and lack of digital skills and digital awareness. At the same time, mostly women remain outside the digital world.
The digital divide remains between urban and rural areas, although it is not so significant in developed countries. Globally, urban dwellers have nearly double the number of Internet users as rural dwellers.
A generation gap is evident in all regions of the world. On average, 71 percent of the world's population aged 15 to 24 uses the Internet, compared with 57 percent in all other age groups.
Prices for computers, telephones and other devices, as well as the cost of connection services, remain a serious barrier to access to the Internet. In some of the world's poorest countries, the cost of connecting to the Internet reaches 20 percent or more of GNI per capita.
Another major limiting issue is the lack of digital skills and understanding of the benefits that the Internet has to offer. This is often compounded by the lack of online content in local languages.
Photo by UNICEF-Georgia / Digital technologies are an important tool for modern education. UN wants everyone to have Internet access by 2030
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