More than 50% of people on Earth are now connected to the Internet via their mobile devices, a new report from the GSMA, a mobile industry association, shows.
The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2021 has found that just over four billion people — 225 million more compared with 2019 and up from a third of people globally just six years ago – are now connecting to the Internet using their mobiles.
The picture is less rosy in sub-Saharan Africa, however: In this region, more than 500 million people who live in areas with mobile broadband coverage are not using the Internet. This is despite substantial increases in network coverage and performance and a sharp reduction in prices in recent years. Also, significant gender and rural-urban gaps exist in the region, with women 37% less likely to use the mobile Internet than men.
Worldwide, the GSMA found that 3.4 billion people do not use the mobile Internet despite living in areas with mobile broadband coverage.
“Mobile is the primary and often the only way to access the internet in low- and middle-income countries,” the association said in a statement. “While more people than ever are now using the mobile Internet, some fundamental barriers stop far too many people from using it.”
“We must address the key barriers to usage of mobile Internet services, most notably literacy and digital skills, as well as affordability. Only through targeted and collaborative action can we bridge the digital divide,” said GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti.
Other key figures from the report include:
- In 2014, almost a quarter of the world’s population did not have access to a mobile broadband network. By the end of 2020, that figure was only 6%.
- In 2020, global coverage increased by one percentage point, from 93% to 94%, compared to 2019. This reduced the number of people living in areas without a mobile broadband network to 450 million. Those who remain uncovered typically live in sparsely populated rural areas with difficult terrain.
- The number of people using mobile Internet has increased for the second year in a row. However, the usage gap remains large and accounts for the majority of the unconnected.
- In 2020, 3.4 billion people (43% of the world’s population) lived within the footprint of a mobile broadband network but were not accessing mobile Internet services. Although the usage gap is narrowing, it is now seven times larger than the coverage gap. In 2014, the usage gap accounted for 64% of the total unconnected population – this figure grew to 88% by 2020 due to the increase in mobile broadband coverage.
- Low- and middle-income countries now account for almost 93% of the world’s unconnected population and more than 98% of the uncovered population. Between 2019 and 2020, the most significant increase in mobile Internet usage was in East Asia (61%), which grew by 4%. — © 2021 NewsCentral Media