In a mid-term review of progress made towards attaining the 10 Millennium Development Goals set out in 2005, the ITU says mobile telephony development has surpassed expectations, but a significant broadband divide remains
Almost 2 billion people across the globe now have access to the Internet, and around 5 billion have a mobile phone subscription, but this still means that three quarters of the world's population still have no access to the Internet at all.
According to the latest World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report from the International Telecommunication Union, huge progress has been made in the last 10 years but "there is still a vast amount of work to be done...to bring affordable fast broadband access within reach of the great majority of the world's people."
The report was launched during this week's World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10) in Hyderabad and provides a mid-term review of the progress made in creating a global information society by 2015. At the last two World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005, governments from around the world agreed on 10 Millennium Development Goals to be reached by 2015.
These 10 targets are:
1. To connect villages with ICTs and establish community access points;
2. To connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs;
3. To connect scientific and research centres with ICTs;
4. To connect public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs;
5. To connect health centres and hospitals with ICTs;
6. To connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and e-mail addresses;
7. To adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the information society, taking into account national circumstances;
8. To ensure that all of the world's population has access to television and radio services;
9. To encourage the development of content and put in place technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of all world languages on the Internet;
10. To ensure that more than half the world's inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach.
Point 10 is the key goal as without Internet access it would be hard to meet the other objectives. In the mid-term review of progress towards the 2015 MDGs, the ITU notes that the rise of mobile telephony across the world has surpassed all expectations and the target has already been achieved, with penetration at 67% of the population by the end of 2009.
There is still some way to go with broadband, however. According to ITU figures, some 1.7 billion people, or 26% of the world's population, were online by the end of 2009. Global Internet user penetration has doubled between 2003 and 2009.
But while targets have been reached in developed countries, with an estimated 64% penetration rate by the end of 2009, "less than 20% of people in the developing world were using the Internet", commented the ITU. "Major efforts are required to bring half the world population...online by 2015."
The ITU says the broadband divide remains significant. However, it expects developments with wireless broadband since the last WSIS to also make a significant contribution towards achieving the 10th MDG. "Since the Summit, the area where most progress has been made is connecting people via mobile technologies," the report adds.