• ITU sees ICT services getting more affordable Despite the over $20 billion investments in various sub marine cable systems across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) targeted at bridging the Internet gap in the Continent, about 75 per cent of the population in Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, among others are yet to be connected.
According to the new data released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the weekend, about 3.9 billion out of the about seven billion people estimated to be on planet earth, remained cut-off from the vast resources available on the Internet, despite falling prices for ICT services.
ITU, a United Nations (UN) specialized agency for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), in its ICT Facts & Figures 2016, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian, revealed that that developing countries now account for the vast majority of Internet users, with 2.5 billion users compared with one billion in developed countries.
However, the Internet penetration rates tell a different story, with 81 per cent in developed countries, compared with 40 per cent in developing countries and 15 per cent in the Least Developed Countries. Commenting, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said access to information and communication technologies, particularly broadband, has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Zhao observed that Global interconnectedness is rapidly expanding, however more needs to be done to bridge the digital divide and bring the more than half of the global population not using the Internet into the digital economy.
Though, there are about 148 million active subscribers in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) puts Internet subscribers at about 92 million, with a 14 per cent broadband penetration, as recently disclosed by the former Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, the ITU statistic revealed that in the Americas and the CIS region, about one third of the population is offline, while almost 75 per cent of people in Africa are non users of the Internet, with only 21 per cent of Europeans offline.
In Asia and the Pacific and the Arab states, the percentage of the population not using the Internet, according to ITU, is very similar at 58.1 and 58.4 per cent respectively.
According to Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Brahima Sanou, 2016 marks the year when the international community is embarking on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets, saying ITU, given the tremendous development of ICTs, has a key role to play in facilitating their attainment. “ITU statistics inform public and private-sector decision makers, and help us accomplish our mission: to make use of the full potential of ICTs for the timely achievement of the SDGs.”
The new edition of ITU’s ICT Facts & Figures, revealed that mobile phone coverage is now near-ubiquitous, with an estimated 95 per cent of the global population – or some seven billion people – living in an area covered by a basic 2G mobile-cellular network.
According to ITU, advanced mobile-broadband networks (LTE) have spread quickly over the last three years and reach almost four billion people today – corresponding to 53 per cent of the global population. But while the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions continues to grow at double digit rates in developing countries to reach a penetration rate of close to 41 per cent, mobile-broadband penetration growth has slowed overall. Globally, the total number of mobile-broadband subscriptions is expected to reach 3.6 billion by end 2016, compared with 3.2 billion at end 2015.
The UN specialised IT body, said global fixed-broadband subscriptions are expected to reach around 12 per 100 inhabitants in 2016, with Europe, the Americas and the Commonwealth of Independent States regions having the highest rates of penetration. Strong growth in China is driving fixed-broadband in Asia and the Pacific, where penetration is expected to surpass 10 per by end of 2016.
ICT prices continue to fall
According to the body, mobile-broadband services have now become more affordable than fixed-broadband services, with the average price for a basic fixed-broadband plan more than twice as high as the average price of a comparable mobile-broadband plan.
It revealed that by the end of 2015, 83 developing countries had achieved the Broadband Commission’s affordability target. Digital divide means half the world is still offline By the end of 2016, more than half of the world’s population – 3.9 billion people – will not yet be using the Internet. While almost one billion households in the world now have Internet access (of which 230 million are in China, 60 million in India and 20 million in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries), figures for household access reveal the extent of the digital divide, with 84 per cent of households connected in Europe, compared with 15.4 per cent n the African region.
Global online gender gap widens
Internet penetration rates are higher for men than for women in all regions of the world. The global Internet user gender gap grew from 11 per cent 2013 to 12 per cent in 2016. The regional gender gap is largest in Africa, at 23 per cent and smallest in the Americas, at 2 per cent.Internet bandwidthBy early 2016, international Internet bandwidth had reached 185,000 gigabits per second, up from a low of 30,000 gigabits in 2008. However, bandwidth is unequally distributed globally, and lack of bandwidth remains a major bottleneck to improved Internet connectivity in many developing and Least Developed Countries.