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UN: Less Than Half of World Connected to Internet

FILE - Young people gather behind a business looking for an internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, April 1, 2014. Only 47 percent of the global population is currently connected, a new report finds.

More than half the global population remains unconnected to the internet, according to a United Nations report released Tuesday.

This year, 84 percent of the world's population had access to mobile broadband networks, but only 47 percent were actually connected, mostly because high costs were a barrier to either service or owning a mobile device, according to the report by the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The report analyzes information and communication technology, or ICT, development.

The report noted, however, that the cost of mobile cellular plans has decreased steeply since 2015, noting a 20 percent fall in prices across countries it deemed "least developed." Broadband prices are also down, although they remained significantly high and "clearly unaffordable" in a number of the least developed countries.

Progress was also noted for general connectivity, with nearly all of 175 countries covered by the index having improved their values on the ICT Development Index.

The U.N. stressed the importance of internet and mobile access across the world, but also how ICT can be an indicator of education levels and socioeconomic status.

"To bring more people online, it is important to focus on reducing overall socioeconomic inequalities," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "Education and income levels are strong determinants of whether or not people use the internet. ICTs will be essential in meeting each and every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals," he added, referring to a number of goals set by the U.N. to tackle poverty and inequality by 2030.