Mobile penetration in the world's least developed countries (LDCs) is nearing 30% - a rate far exceeding ITU expectations – but internet connectivity is another story.
Access to mobile services in the 48 nations classed by the UN as LDCs has grown from 1.2% to nearly 30% in ten years, equivalent to 250 million users, while penetration has risen at a CAGR of 42.6% over the last five years, compared to 7.1% in developed countries, ITU figures show.
UN targets set at the turn of the century had called for 5% average telephone density in LDCs by 2011, however only four markets - Myanmar, Kiribati, Eritrea and Ethiopia - had failed to reach the target by 2009.
The picture is less rosy for internet access, though, with most LDC countries lagging behind UN targets of 10% penetration by 2011. The ITU has committed to help countries choose and deploy the right technology and handle security and technical issues, as it seeks to connect 15 in every 100 citizens by 2020.
“People ask me if internet penetration is really such a high priority for people who, on a daily basis, face a lack of safe drinking water, rising food prices, and a chronic shortage of healthcare,” ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré said.
“My answer is a resounding yes, because the internet – and especially broadband – is an extraordinary enabler which has potential to massively expand the effective delivery of vital services, such as healthcare and education.”