ISLAMABAD: Mobile-cellular subscriptions are moving towards saturation levels with almost 40 per cent of the world’s population are online, and by the end of 2013, an estimated 2.7 billion people will be using the internet, says the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report, 2013, published by the United Nations.
With a projected 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions by this year’s end, global penetration, measured as the number of subscriptions in relation to total population, will reach 96pc, says the report, published on Monday. The report presents an accounting to date of how far the world has come in meeting the goals using data available as of June 2013.
As penetration levels approach market saturation in an increasing number of countries, subscription growth rates have fallen to their lowest levels ever in the last year – around 6pc in developing countries and 4pc in developed countries, according to the report.
Developing countries now account for over 77pc of world’s total mobile-cellular subscriptions and the mobile-cellular digital divide has been substantially reduced.
Growing infrastructure in information and communications technology, including mobile-broadband networks, along with social media, innovative applications and falling prices for services continue to drive Internet uptake in all regions.
However, major regional differences remain. In the developing world, 31pc of the population is online, compared to 77pc in the developed world. Sub-Saharan Africa, where less than 20pc of the population is using the Internet, remains the region with the lowest penetration rate.
While more and more people are joining the information society, more men than women are using the Internet. Globally, 37pc of all women are online, compared to 41pc of all men. The gender gap is more pronounced in the developing world, where 29pc of women use the Internet, compared with 33pc of men.
This means that 16pc fewer women than men are using the Internet in the developing world, compared with 2pc fewer women than men in the developed world, estimates the report.
Both the number of fixed- and mobile-broadband subscriptions in developing countries surpassed those in developed countries. But penetration rates lag seriously behind. While developed countries have fixed- and mobile-broadband penetration rates of 27pc and 75pc, respectively, rates for developing countries stood at 6pc for fixed- and 20pc for mobile-broadband subscriptions. In sub-Saharan Africa, fixed-broadband penetration is below 1pc.
Besides differences in penetration rates, major disparities remain in the coverage, price and quality of broadband services. The limited availability of international Internet bandwidth and backbone infrastructure in many developing countries continue to pose challenges.