Friday, January 28

A third of the world’s population cannot read this: the UN reveals that 2.9 billion people have never accessed the internet

The Internet is already so integrated into our daily lives that a world without it seems strange, anachronistic, with the sepia veneer of memories. However, beyond our bubbles with fiber optics and 5G networks there are billions of disconnected lives. Now, at the same moment you read these lines on your mobile or on your computer screen. In fact, 2.9 billion people around the world, approximately 37% of the planet’s population has never been connected to the network, according the latest report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU, for its acronym in French) in this regard, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) in information and communication technologies.

In addition, of the 4,900 inhabitants of the planet who have connected on some occasion to the internet, the ITU emphasizes that hundreds of millions access with a very low frequency, through shared devices or at speeds that significantly limit the usefulness of these connections. “Although almost two-thirds of the world’s population are already connected, there is still a lot to do so that everyone can connect to the internet,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

The International Telecommunications Union also highlights that, of the total of 2,900 million people who have never accessed the internet, 96% live in developing or least developed countries -Formerly known as underdeveloped.

Despite these figures, the ITU stresses that the coronavirus pandemic has meant a big boost for the connectivity of the world populationSince 2019, a total of 782 million more people have had access to the internet, representing an increase of 17% in just two years.

In this sense, those that improved the most were the least developed countries, in which the number of people who accessed the internet in the last two years increased by 20%. And it was followed by developing countries, with a growth of 13%.

Multiple gaps

These data lead the authors of the report to several conclusions, all of them related to the inequalities that generates the lack of access for a large population of the planet, causing gender and generational gaps and between rural and urban areas.

In terms of gender differences, it has practically disappeared in developed countries, but still pronounced in many parts of Africa -35% of men access the internet compared to 24% of women- and in the Arab states -68% of men compared to 56% of women.

When it comes to the difference between city and country, globally urban dwellers are twice as likely to use the internet as rural dwellers. However, in developed countries this gap is very small -89% of the urban population has used the internet in the last three months, compared to 85% of the rural population-, while in the least developed states it is abysmal: 47% urban, 13% rural.

The generation gap is the one that is distributed more evenly across all regions of the world. On average, 71% of the planet’s population between 15 and 24 years old has internet access, while the other age groups, together, only reach 57%. Despite the fact that here the differences by degree of development of the countries are smaller, it is also the least developed states that show the greatest difference: 24% of young people connect to the network, for 22% of the rest of the population .