The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has released its Measuring the Information Society Report and it shows progress is being made to connect more people to the internet.

One slice of this good news comes from Africa where the continent added 103 million mobile broadband connections in 2016. That means 29.3% of Africans have mobile broadband, a 10.3% improvement on 2015. The only region to have added more mobile broadband users is Asia Pacific which added 239 million subscriptions.

The number of internet users across the continent also grew from 210 million in 2015 to 240 million this year. While growth is important this figure means that only 25.1% of the continent is using the internet; worse still only 15.4% of African households have internet access.

The problem is not exclusive to Africa. Globally 3.9 billion people are not using the internet, a third of the US population is still offline and Asia and the Pacific regions as well as the Arab states, 58.1% and 58.4% respectively are not using the internet. As the ITU points out access to the internet is not enough. “Policy-makers must address broader socio-economic inequalities and help people acquire the necessary skills to take full advantage of the Internet,” the body says.

Percentage of people NOT using the internet by region.
Percentage of people NOT using the internet by region.

Indeed one of the reasons for this large amount of people not using the internet is the cost of access. According to the ITU the purchasing power parity of mobile broadband sits at $26.70.

This is the average figure that would be paid worldwide to access a service. In developed countries access comes in well below that at $15.90. In developing and the least developed countries however, the same access would cost $30.80 and $39.90 respectively far above the average.

Fixed line broadband access is far worse. The ITU pegs the purchasing power parity of fixed broadband at $56.30, in developed countries that comes in at $27.80. While developing countries pay $67.30 for the same access, the least developed countries have to hand over $134 for the same.

The ITU also found a disparity in the speed of broadband across the globe in 2015. In Europe there is approximately 131Kbps of bandwidth per person, in Africa that figure falls to 6Kbps per person. This, the ITU says, is the result of a lack of internet infrastructure in the least developed countries.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Africa though as the ITU points out that the continent is working to improve its ICT Development Index ranking. This is however hampered by the fact that the majority of African nations are classified as “least developed countries” and have a lower level of economic development thus restricting ICT development.

The growth in mobile broadband subscriptions however shows that Africa is exploring alternatives to fixed line access but something drastic needs to be done to lower the cost of access.

[Image – Pixabay]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.