Monday, January 23, 2017

ITU says 3.9bn people unconnected, majority in Africa

The United Nations agency in charge of telecommunications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has revealed that some 3.9 billion people globally are yet to be connected to the Internet, reports ITRealms.

This is coming as to-date 53 per cent of the world’s population is still offline, with the majority located in Africa and Asia-Pacific.

This was part of the revelation at the special presentation at a session hosted by the United Nations Broadband Commission at the just ended World Economic Forum at Davos Annual Meeting 2017.

ITRealms gathered that the presentation entitled ‘CONNECTING THE UNCONNECTED’ showed that out of the 3.9 billion unconnected people 58 per cent is female, and 60 per cent of the rural dwellers.

In addition, ITU said that unconnected people constitute at least half from countries with $6.5K GNI/capita.

According to the presentation, the Internet has the potential to positively impact and transform people’s lives and bring benefits in a great number of areas, including health, education, financial services, transport, energy, agriculture, and more.

“However, to-date 53 per cent of the world’s population is still offline, with the majority located in Africa and Asia-Pacific,” the Commission said, adding that the reasons for being offline or for limited Internet use are manifold, including that many do not have access because they live in remote or difficult to-reach areas and do not have access to digital or other basic infrastructure such as electricity or transport.

Some, ITRealms gathered, do not see the benefits of being connected, often because of limited awareness, cultural impediments or limited relevant digital content.

“Still others are illiterate, and many are too poor to afford even the most basic of Internet packages and devices. Existing inequalities in terms of income and education, particularly prominent among women, and other factors exacerbate the problem,” part of the presentation read.

In order to tackle the large offline populations, ITU noted that within its Connect 2020 Agenda has made it a goal to bring 60 per cent of the world’s population online by 2020.

ITU stressed that the key challenges in meeting Connect 2020 Agenda Targets are finding replicable solutions that could be scaled to connecting the large rural offline populations at minimal costs, and finding effective strategies for narrowing the usage gaps (including the gender gap across all regions.

Further, ITRealms reports that ITU noted that while a significant amount of initiatives have been implemented, targeting both the rural, urban divide and the usage gaps largely at the local, community or national level, it is unlikely that large-scale rural ‘almost free’ solutions will be deployed within the next three years.

Chuks Egbune/GEE 
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