The ITU and the United Nations (UN) Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development recently released their annual progress update on connecting the world to affordable broadband ISP connections, noting, among other things, that 2.7 billion people remain unconnected.
The Commission has long set a number of targets to help connect large parts of the world without broadband access by 2025. As before, these are soft political goals, as the commission itself has limited ability to provide financial or non-financial assistance. Achieving such goals, but some progress is evident.
This report focuses on the impact on both developing countries (LDCs) and least developed countries (LDCs).
2022 Progress Update on 2025 Global Broadband Goals
GOAL 01: UNIVERSAL BROADWAY POLICY
By 2025, all countries must have a funded National Broadband Plan (NBP) or strategy, or include broadband in their Universal Access and Service (UAS) definition
155 countries have a national broadband plan or other digital strategy document that focuses on broadband in 2022, down from 165 in 2021. The number of economies with broadband plans fell slightly last year as plans expired and were not renewed in some countries. countries. While a plan is a useful starting point, it is important to know how well they are implemented. The ITU report on universal access financing highlights the need for a change in thinking that includes alternative financing models towards Universal Service and Accessibility Fund 2.0. Such funding can also be extended beyond infrastructure to digital transformation, including to disadvantaged groups such as women and girls, the disabled and the elderly, regardless of where they live.
OBJECTIVE 2: MAKE AFFORDABLE PRICES AFFORDABLE
By 2025, low- and middle-income countries should have access to broadband services that account for less than 2% of monthly gross national income per capita.
The ITU report, conducted in partnership with the Alliance for Accessible Internet (A4AI), found that the availability of broadband services worsened after improving in 2021. The decline is a result of COVID-19 rather than a rise in service fees. Only 96 countries met the mobile broadband target, down from 103 in 2020, and 64 countries, two less than in 2020.
GOAL 3: GO ONLINE FOR EVERYTHING
By 2025, broadband Internet user penetration should reach: i) 75% worldwide; ii) 65% in low and middle income countries; and iii) 35% in less developed countries
ITU data reveals that Internet penetration has increased as a result of the pandemic. Internet use has grown to an estimated 66 percent of the population (5.3 billion people) in 2022, up from 54 percent in 2019. Growth in 2020 saw usage rise 11 percent, the highest growth in a decade. In 2022, Internet use will be 93 percent in high-income countries, 61 percent in LMICs, and only 36 percent in LDCs (ITU estimates). While Internet use is growing, some groups, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, are lagging behind.
GOAL 4: DEVELOP DIGITAL SKILLS
By 2025, 60% of young people and adults should have at least a minimum level of sustainable digital skills
Digital literacy is one of the main causes of digital exclusion and is often one of the top answers in surveys asking why people don’t use the Internet. According to the latest available data from the OIE, in 45 percent of reporting countries, less than 40 percent of the population considered at least one activity a basic skill (eg, sending an email with an attachment). Only 23 percent of countries reported that more than 60 percent of the population had at least one basic ICT skill.
GOAL 5: INCREASE THE USE OF E-FINANCE
By 2025, 40% of the world’s population should use digital financial services
Digital financial services offer a huge opportunity to rapidly increase the number of people using the Internet and expand access to the social and economic benefits of digital resources. According to the latest data from the World Bank’s FINDEX survey, in 2021, 64% of people aged 15 and above have made and/or received digital payments. This figure exceeds the target of 40% on a global basis. Although low- and lower-middle-income countries and South Asia have not yet reached the target, they are on track to achieve it by 2025.
GOAL 6: GET SME ONLINE
Improve connectivity of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by 50% across sectors by 2025
Many small and medium-sized enterprises, especially in low- and middle-income countries, have been shut down since the introduction of the quarantine. Lacking broadband Internet access, they could not quickly transition to online operations to sell products and services. Contact data disaggregated by firm size is not always widely available for micro-enterprises, but for high-income countries. For most low- and middle-income countries, aggregated data on the total number of businesses with Internet access, let alone the industry, is not available. Therefore, it is difficult to assess the seriousness of the problem.
GOAL 7: BRIDGING THE GENDER DIGITAL DIVIDE
Achieve gender equality in all goals by 2025
According to the latest ITU estimates, in 2022, 69 percent of men will use the Internet, compared to 63 percent of women. Gender parity increased from 0.89 in 2018 to 0.92 in 2020. Some regions and income groups have achieved gender parity in Internet use, including high-income countries, SIDS, the Americas, CIS countries, and Europe. According to the GSMA, the significant gender gap in mobile internet usage in LMICs has been improving in the past, falling from 67 percent in 2017 to 36 percent in 2020, mainly due to South Asia. However, gender gaps in mobile Internet access persist in LMIC countries, and the mobile Internet gender gap has widened in some countries.