In 2022, three-quarters of people over 10 have a mobile phone, but not all have access to the internet.
Nearly three-quarters of people over 10 in 2022 will have a mobile phone that facilitates access to the Internet, and nearly a third of the world’s population is still deprived of this international network, the UN said on Wednesday.
“Mobile phones are the most common gateway to the Internet, and ownership rates serve as an indicator of Internet availability and access,” writes the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in its annual Connectivity Report.
However, not all laptop owners have access to the Internet, especially in low-income countries where broadband is often very expensive. According to figures collected by the ITU, 95% of people in rich countries have a mobile phone while in underprivileged countries the penetration rate drops to 49%.
Internet access is advancing, but less quickly, after the jump recorded during the Covid pandemic and its restrictions that forced hundreds of millions of people to work or study online.
Today, about 5.3 billion people, or 66% of the world’s population, use the Internet. Almost all of those who are not connected are in the poorest countries. This percentage has increased steadily in recent years and experienced a strong “crash” in 2020, ITU chief economist Thierry Geiger told AFP.
But there is still a lot to do, because “many people still live in digital darkness”, said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, who in early 2023 will become the first woman to lead this agency. “Internet access is growing, but not as fast and equally around the world as it should be,” she added, in a statement about the report.
A standard measure of Internet access is the average price of mobile broadband services, which are often less expensive than landline access. These average prices have fallen from 1.9% of gross national income per capita to 1.5% in 2022.
But the cost is still too high for a large number of consumers in low-income countries where a mobile data plan costs 9% of the average income. That’s far more than the percentage paid in rich countries for similar services, according to the ITU, which has called on all countries to provide affordable broadband access, which it defines as costing less than 2 % of national income, monthly gross per capita.
“We must maintain Internet access even as the global recession hits the economic prospects of many countries,” outgoing ITU chief Houlin Zhao said in a statement.
Geiger points out that while the cost of connectivity appears to continue to fall, rising prices for basic necessities could force many people to go offline.
Although Internet access is increasingly seen as an essential service, “food still dominates,” he said. We will have to wait until next year to see the possible effects of the current crisis.
The continuing digital divide between rich and poor and also a gender divide. While women make up about half of the world’s population, about 259 million fewer than men have access to the Internet, and only 63% of women go online compared to 69% of men, the report says.