The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is warning of a global Internet divide where the world’s poorest countries are left behind by developed nations, which are enjoying steady rises in broadband access.
In the latest State of Broadband report, the ITU notes there are now at least 70 countries in the world with broadband penetration of over 50% of the population. However, it warns the world’s 49 least developed countries are in danger of falling behind, because penetration of fixed and mobile Internet currently stands at 10% or less.
“The new analysis in this year’s report shows progress in broadband availability, but we must not lose sight of those who are being left behind,” says Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU secretary-general and co-vice chair of the ITU’s Broadband Commission.
Lack of access to fixed and mobile broadband networks may hinder development of those country’s economies, education, and healthcare systems, Touré notes. “Technology combined with relevant content and services can help us bridge urgent development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”
The report also confirms mobile broadband is growing faster than fixed, with the ITU claiming the wireless technology is the fastest growing in human history. Subscriptions are rising by 30% a year, due in part to the variety of devices consumers now have access to, and will outnumber fixed connections by three to one at end 2013.
Europe dominates the landscape in terms of countries with total broadband penetration of at least 50% of the population, with countries in the region occupying 8 of the top 10 slots in the ITU’s research. South Korea is market leader in terms of household broadband penetration (97%), while Switzerland tops the table of fixed broadband subscriptions per capita.