Global broadband growth slows sharply with 4 billion still offline

Women in developing countries and language minorities are among those most likely to have no broadband access

Eleanor Rosney
by Eleanor Rosney on 23rd September, 2015

A new report issued by the United Nations (UN) states that 57% of people in the world have no access to broadband.

The report, The State of Broadband, produced by UN Broadband Commission and UNESCO, states that we have reached a transition point in the growth of the Internet, and with more than half of people on the planet remaining offline, they are unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

Figures in the report confirm that 3.2 billion people are now connected, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population. But while access to the Internet is approaching saturation levels in the developed world, the Internet is only accessible to 35% of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries is particularly critical, with over 90% of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.

“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.”

This year’s figures show that the top ten countries for household Internet penetration are all located in Asia or the Middle East. The Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration, with 98.5% of homes connected; Qatar (98%) and Saudi Arabia (94%) are ranked second and third respectively.

Iceland has the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet (98.2%), just ahead of Norway (96.3%) and Denmark (96%).

Mobile growth

The Asia-Pacific region now accounts for half of all active mobile broadband subscriptions, with Macao, China taking top place with 322 active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people – or just over three subscriptions per inhabitant – followed by second-ranked Singapore (156 subscriptions per 100 people) and Kuwait (140 subscriptions per 100 people).

In January 2015, China Mobile became the world’s largest mobile operator by number of subscribers.

In total, there are now 79 countries where over 50% of the population is online, up from 77 in 2014. The top ten countries for Internet use are all located in Europe. The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2% of the population in Guinea (1.7%), Somalia (1.6%), Burundi (1.4%), Timor Leste (1.1%) and Eritrea (1.0).

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