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Billions of people in developing world have no access to Internet, UN report says

Broadband Internet is failing to reach billions of people living in the developing world, including 90 percent of those living in the poorest nations, a new UN report said on Monday.

Fifty-seven percent of the world's people remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer, revealed the State of Broadband report produced by the UN Broadband Commission.

The report, which came ahead of this week's summit at UN Headquarters in New York at which world leaders will adopt the 2030 Agenda which contains the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stressed that access to information and communication technology (ICT), particularly broadband Internet, had the potential to serve as a major accelerator of development.

The importance of ICT connectivity is specifically recognized in the SDGs, a set of 17 economic, social and environmental goals expected to be adopted by world leaders at a meeting here on Friday.

"The UN Sustainable Development Goals remind us that we need to measure global development by the number of those being left behind," said Houlin Zhao, the secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), who serves as co-vice chair of the commission with Irina Bokova, the director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"The 2030 Agenda recognizes the power of new technologies to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide, to develop knowledge societies -- we must do everything to support States in reaching these goals, especially developing States," Bokova noted.

"This calls for stronger efforts by governments and all actors, in ensuring access, use and affordability -- it requires also greater work to build the capacities of all women and men to make the most of all new opportunities," she said.

According to the report, the Internet is currently only accessible to 35 percent of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is particularly critical, with over 90 percent of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.

This year's figures show that the top 10 countries for household Internet penetration are all located in Asia or the Middle East. The Republic of Korea continues to have the world's highest household broadband penetration, with 98.5 percent of homes connected, followed by Qatar (98 percent) and Saudi Arabia (94 percent).

The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2 percent of the populations in Guinea, Somalia, Burundi and Eritrea, said the report.

[Source: Xinhua, United Nations, NY, 21Sep15]

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