Over 50 per cent of the global population will have Internet access within three years’ time, with mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets now the fastest growing technology in human history, according to the 2014 edition of the State of Broadband report.
The report reveals that more than 40 per cent of the world’s people are already online, with the number of Internet users rising from 2.3 billion in 2013 to 2.9 billion by the end of this year.
Over 2.3 billion people will access mobile broadband by end 2014, climbing steeply to a predicted 7.6 billion within the next five years. There are now over three times as many mobile broadband connections as there are conventional fixed broadband subscriptions. The popularity of broadband-enabled social media applications continues to soar, with 1.9 billion people now active on social networks.
Produced annually by the Broadband Commission, set up by the ITU and UNESCO, The State of Broadband offers a global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the 54 members of the Broadband Commission.
The Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration at over 98 per cent, up from 97 per cent last year. Monaco now surpasses last year’s champion, Switzerland, as the world leader in fixed broadband penetration, at over 44 per cent of the population. There are now four economies (Monaco, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands) where penetration exceeds 40 per cent, up from just one (Switzerland) in 2013.
The US ranks 19th globally in terms of number of people online, ahead of other OECD countries like Germany (20th) and Australia (21st), but behind the United Kingdom (12th), Japan (15th) and Canada (16th). The US has slid from 20th to 24th place for fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, just behind Japan but ahead of Macao (China) and Estonia.
In total, there are now 77 countries where over 50 per cent of the population is online, up from 70 in 2013. The top ten countries for Internet use are all located in Europe, with Iceland ranked first in the world with 96.5 per cent of people online. The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2 per cent of the population in Ethiopia (1.9 per cent), Niger (1.7 per cent), Sierra Leone (1.7 per cent), Guinea (1.6 per cent), Somalia (1.5 per cent), Burundi (1.3 per cent), Eritrea (0.9 per cent) and South Sudan (no data available). The list of the ten least-connected nations also includes Myanmar (1.2 per cent) and Timor Leste (1.1 per cent).
“As we look towards the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that we not forget those who are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Broadband uptake is accelerating, but it is unacceptable that 90 per cent of people in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected. With broadband Internet now universally recognised as a vital tool for social and economic development, we need to make connectively a key development priority, particularly in the world’s poorest nations. Connectivity is not a luxury for the rich – rather, it is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had at its disposal to bridge development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”
“Despite the phenomenal growth of the Internet, despite its many benefits, there are still too many people who remain unconnected in the world’s developing countries,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Providing Internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere, will take determined policy leadership and investment. As we focus on infrastructure and access, we must also promote the rights skills and diversity of content, to allow women and men to participate in building and participating in knowledge societies. As the new State of Broadband report shows, ICTs are making a significant contribution to social development, economic development and environmental protection, the three pillars that will underpin the post-2015 international development agenda and move us towards a more sustainable world.”
The Commission’s advocacy around the importance of broadband has seen the number of countries with a National Broadband Plan in place grow from 102 in 2010, when the Commission began its work, to 140 today, according to the new report. The State of Broadband 2014 is the third edition of the Commission’s annual report. Released annually in September in New York, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.