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Internet Access Booming in Least Developed Countries


FILE - A Somali man browses the Internet on his mobile phone at a beach in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, Jan. 10, 2014.

The International Telecommunication Union reports hundreds of millions of people in the world’s poorest countries now have access to the Internet and mobile devices.

It is increasingly difficult to function in this modern digital world without access to the Internet, a smart phone or other digital device. A new report by the International Telecommunication Union finds e-banking, e-commerce and other actions in cyberspace are no longer just the purview of the rich world.

It says all 47 of the world’s Least Developed Countries are making huge strides in increasing their Internet access. The ITU says more than 60 percent of LDC populations are covered by a 3G network, referring to a third generation or advanced wireless mobile telecommunication technology.

FILE - A man uses his cell phone to take pictures of houses destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen, June 8, 2015.
FILE - A man uses his cell phone to take pictures of houses destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen, June 8, 2015.

It notes by the end of last year, about 700 million people in LDCs had subscriptions to mobile phones, with 80 percent of their populations living within range of a mobile cellular network. Given this progress, the ITU reports LDCs are on track toward achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal on universal and affordable Internet access by 2020.

ITU spokeswoman Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell tells VOA having access to the Internet and mobile phones has a positive impact on peoples’ lives. She says digital connectivity can provide valuable knowledge and information to populations around the world.

“It gives farmers access to information on crops, when to plant their crops, weather patterns that are happening. It provides access to online education to communities," she said. "It can make micro and small and medium sized enterprises be able to compete with larger businesses.”

FILE - People use computers at an internet cafe in the Hodan area of Mogadishu, Oct. 9, 2013.
FILE - People use computers at an internet cafe in the Hodan area of Mogadishu, Oct. 9, 2013.

The lTU says universal and affordable Internet access can help LDCs leap-frog in areas such as education, health, government services, trade and can trigger new business opportunities. While this is positive, the report identifies lack of digital skills as a key barrier to Information Communication Technology and Internet use in LDCs.

The report calls on policy makers, industry leaders, and educators to work together to increase digital skills across the Least Developed Countries.

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