Almost all the world can now access the internet, but more work needs to be done to ensure everyone realises the potential of internet use, according to a report from the ITU. The UN agency's annual 'Measuring the Information Society' report found that mobile broadband networks (3G and 4G) now cover 84 percent of the world's population, yet only 47.1 percent of people use the internet.
In developing economies where recent household data is available, close to 20 percent of the population, on average, are still not using mobile phones. Most often these are people below the age of 15 or over 74 years old. Among the 15-74 age group, 85 percent or more of the population owns or uses a mobile phone in the countries where data are available.
In addition to education, the level of income is an important criteria in determining whether someone uses the internet or a mobile phone. The ITU report found that for the first time, average mobile prices fell to less than 5 percent of gross national income per capita in 2015. This is based on the price of a basic mobile basket of 100 SMS and 30 calls per month. The price drop is linked to the increasing availability of prepaid packages that bundle SMS and local calls, the ITU said. Prices are lowest in Asia, led by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Nevertheless, it is the cost of the handset more than the services that is the main barrier to owning a mobile phone. Another important barrier is the lack of perceived benefits. In communities where overall mobile uptake is low, mobile phone use is perceived to have fewer benefits since fewer community members are using this mode of communication. Other barriers include lack of ICT skills necessary for accessing the internet through a mobile phone.
Fixed broadband is still much too expensive for many people in developing countries, at around USD 25 per month in 2015 or 14 percent of average GNI per capita. In the least developed countries, a fixed-broadband plan with a minimum of 1GB of data per month still corresponds to over 60 percent of GNI per capita. In comparsion mobile broadband cost an average USD 18 per month, after adjusting for purchasing power. While mobile-broadband services are offered only in 38 percent of the LDCs, in places where it is available the average cost of handset-based services has more than halved in the period 2012-2015 and now accounts for just 11 percent of GNI per capita.