New York, US – An International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report, released on Tuesday, projects that by the end of the year, 40% of the world’s population, about 2.7 billion people, will be online, as mobile broadband has become the fastest growing segment of the global information and communications technology (ICT) market.
The UN statement issued on the annual ITU report also estimated that by the end of 2013, there will be some 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscription, almost as many as there are people on the planet.
It stated: “While speed and prices vary widely within and across regions, the report shows that broadband pricing in more than 160 countries over the past four years fell by 82% overall, from 115% of average monthly income per capita in 2008 to 22% in 2012”.
“In addition, mobile broadband has become more affordable than fixed broadband, making this a more popular form of connectivity,” it noted.
The ITU also released its ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks 157 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills.
It disclosed that the Republic of Korea topped the list for the third year in a row, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway.
It said that the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Hong Kong (China) also rank in the top 10, with the UK nudging into the top 10 group from 11th position last year.
In terms of broadband pricing, Austria has the world’s most affordable mobile broadband, while Sao Tome and Príncipe, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least affordable.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure, said: “This year’s IDI figures show much reason for optimism, with governments clearly prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth, resulting in better access and lower prices.”
“In spite of remarkable progress, our report notes that there are large differences between developed and developing countries, making evident the link between income and ICT progress.
“The so-called Least Connected Countries are home to a third of the world’s total population, who could greatly benefit from access to and use of ICTs in areas such as health, education and employment,” Mr. Toure stated.
He also said that, “our most pressing challenge is to identify ways to enable those countries which are still struggling to connect their populations to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty”.
This year, the report developed a new model to estimate the size of the ‘digital native’ population, who are defined as “15-24 years (old) with five or more years of online experience”.
It said that about 30 per cent of the world’s young people fall into this category.
However, it said that there are still notable differences between developed and developing countries. In developed countries, 86% of young people, about 145 million young Internet users are ‘digital natives’.
In contrast, of the 503 million young Internet users in developing countries, less than half are considered ‘digital natives’.
The ITU forecast that the amount of ‘digital natives’ in developing countries will more than double in the next five years.
Mr. Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunications Development Bureau, said: “Young people are the most enthusiastic adopters and users of ICTs. They are the ones who will shape the direction of our industry in the coming decades, and their voice needs to be heard.”