Despite global growth of the internet and related services, more than half the world still has no access to the web, a United Nations (UN) report has found.
In its ‘Broadband Targets for 2015’ policy document, the UN says it wants 40% of households in developing countries to have internet access by the end of the year.
In 2015, 3.2 billion people, or 45% of the global population have internet access, the UN said.
The UN’s Broadband Commission has pushed for access and utility of the internet as a human right.
“High-speed broadband is no longer just cutting-edge technology for an elite few; instead, the steady march of connectivity among the broader population is slowly but surely transforming our society with new ways of accessing services and information,” the commission said in its Broadband for All report.
The UN has set a goal of 60% worldwide internet access by the end of 2015, but specifically, access rates of 50% in developing countries, and 15% in least developed countries.
While industry watchers salivate at the prospect of machine to machine (M2M), e-commerce and smart technologies, the UN argued that the greater societal change can be facilitated through browsing the web.
“The real information revolution may lie in the growing day-by-day use of internet-enabled devices in all parts of our lives.”
In South Africa, Statistics SA estimates that 10% of households have internet access, though it added that 16.2% have access at work.
The Western Cape province leads local household internet access with 21%, followed by Gauteng (15.6%) and the Free State (6.9%).
While the UN set the goals of internet access as “ambitious but achievable”, international progress and co-operation is slow as evidenced by the collective failure to fully address the Millennium Development Goals.