Wednesday, September 22, 2010

African internet users surge with 53m in 4 years - Zukang

The African internet users have surged with 53 million within a space of four years, says the United Nations under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Sha Zukang.

In his opening address to the just concluded 2010 global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which held in Vilnius, Lithuania, between September 14-17, 2010, Mr. Zukang who was represented by his assistant, Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, said that Africa has grown internet usage from 16m to 69m in four years.

“Between 2005 and 2009, the number of users in Africa surged from 16 to 69 million,” he said, noting that in Arab States Internet has grown from 26 to 64 million, which showed growth of 38 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, he said, that the community of Internet users have seen changes between 347 to 744 million within the same period under review.

While in the Commonwealth of Independent States a growth of 69 million, that is, from 30 to 99 million, was recorded.

Whereas, in the Americas, Mr. Zukang noted that the numbers of users went up from 322 to 447 million and in Europe it was from 277 to 387 million between 2005 and 2009 respectively.

Also, he said that 60 per cent of people in developing regions now have cellular telephones and more and more are using mobile broadband.

“These numbers are indeed is a cause for some celebration,” he said, stressing that yet, other metrics showed that the digital divide between developed and developing regions has been widening instead of closing.

He cited for example that in 2005, there was a 43 per cent gap in the proportion of people using the Internet between developed and developing countries.

By 2009, he said, the gap had widened to 49 per cent.

Noting that in 2005, there was a 4 per cent gap in the proportion of people with mobile broadband and by 2009, the gap had widened to 37 per cent.

“This tells us that while developing countries are making progress, developed countries are moving even faster,” he said.

Zukang recalled that the five-year mandate of the IGF expired last year, but the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, has recommended that the Forum’s mandate be extended and that a number of improvements be made.

These matters, he said, are now before the United Nations General Assembly for consideration before the end of 2010.

The Internet, he said, could assist in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) through improving lives of millions of people.

“Its governance is a serious responsibility. On that note, let us begin an engaging, illuminating and productive discourse,” he charged.

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