New Data, Statistics: ITU Releases 2022 Global Connectivity Report, Global Potential of Internet Remains Largely Untapped
From the ITU:
The immense potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains largely untapped despite 30 years of steady growth, according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.
Launched to coincide with the opening of ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, the Global Connectivity Report 2022 argues that while easy, affordable access to fast broadband is near-ubiquitous in most rich-world nations, vast swaths of humanity remain excluded from the immense possibilities offered by the online experience, stunting economic development and deepening global inequalities.
While the number of Internet users surged from a just a few million in the early 1990s to almost five billion today, 2.9 billion people – or around one third of humanity – still remain totally offline, and many hundreds of millions more struggle with expensive, poor-quality access that does little to materially improve their lives.
“Equitable access to digital technologies isn’t just a moral responsibility, it’s essential for global prosperity and sustainability,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “We need to create the right conditions, including promoting environments conducive to investment, to break cycles of exclusion and bring digital transformation to all.”
While the COVID-related surge in demand for Internet access brought some 800 million additional people online, it also dramatically increased the cost of digital exclusion, with those unable to connect abruptly shut out of employment, schooling, access to health advice, financial services, and much more.
“Universal, meaningful connectivity has become the global imperative for our decade,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produced the report. “It’s no longer just about linking people – the catalytic role of connectivity will also be absolutely critical to our success in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Still looking for the ‘missing link’
‘The Missing Link’ report, published in 1984 by the Independent Commission for World-Wide Telecommunications Development set up by ITU , identified a clear correlation between access to telecommunications and socio-economic development and urged all countries to make connectivity a priority.
Nearly 40 years on, that ‘missing link’ still persists, but has morphed to multiple digital divides:
- The Income Divide – the level of Internet use in low-income countries (22%) remains far below that of high-income countries, which are approaching universal use (91%)
- The Urban-Rural Divide – the share of Internet users is twice as high in urban areas as in rural areas
- The Gender Divide – globally, 62% of men are using the Internet, compared with 57% of women
- The Generation Divide – in all regions, young people 15-24 year are more avid Internet users (72% online) than the rest of the population (57%)
- The Education Divide – In nearly all countries where data are available, rates of Internet use are higher for those with more education – in many cases, far higher.
The report notes that the biggest challenges in connecting the unconnected are no longer related to network coverage, but rather to uptake and use.
With just 5% of the global population still physically out of reach of a mobile broadband signal, the ‘coverage gap’ is now dwarfed by the ‘usage gap’: some 32% of people who are within range of a mobile broadband network and could theoretically connect still remain offline, due to prohibitive costs, lack of access to a device, or lack of awareness, skills, or ability to find useful content.
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Direct to Full Text Report
186 pages; PDF.
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6 pages; PDF.
Read the Full Text Report Online
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.