The majority of the world's population (95%) is now covered by mobile broadband networks. But according to a new report from the GSMA, 40% of the population covered by these networks face other barriers that prevent them from getting online.
These barriers include lack of literacy and digital skills, affordability (especially for mobile phones), access to relevant content and services, safety and security issues, and access.
The report also showed that more than half (55 percent) of the global population is connected to the mobile Internet, up from 43 percent in 2017.
The GSMA report adds that the majority (94%) of the world's "unconnected" population - who are more likely to be poor, live in rural areas and are female - live in low and middle income countries (Lmics) because lack of Internet access "prevents them from playing an active role in an increasingly networked world", These people are less likely to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, rising energy prices, the cost-of-living crisis and other economic disruptions.
The report also showed that nearly 300 million people went online last year. The majority of people who started using mobile Internet in 2021 were from LMICs, meaning that half of the population in LMICs were using mobile Internet for the first time.
"More than 55 percent of people worldwide are benefiting from the transformative power of mobile Internet connectivity," GSMA Director General Mats Granryd said in an advance statement on the mobile broadband coverage report. . "Global mobile operators have now expanded mobile coverage to 95% of the world's population and continue to invest every day to expand coverage. We should celebrate this achievement, but we shouldn't let it distract us from the bigger challenges.
"Now is the time to take real steps to help the 3.2 billion people who, despite living in the footprint of mobile broadband networks, are still not using the mobile Internet. We call on governments and organisations around the world to work with the mobile industry to make digital inclusion a real priority. Removing barriers to mobile Internet adoption will boost economic recovery, improve social mobility and gender equality, and transform the lives of millions of people around the world."
The GSMA report comes on the heels of an Ericsson report that predicted that 90% of wireless subscribers in North America will be 5G in 2027, with more than 1 billion subscribers by the end of this year.