HALF THE WORLD or nearly six billion people will have Internet access in the next three years. Two years hence by 2019, up to 7.8 billion people would be online.

Yet still, that is just half the story. Up to 80 percent of the citizens of the 48 poorest nations of the world have been left behind by the Internet express.

This is the mixed prognosis of the United Nations’ Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which launched over the weekend a new report with country-by-country data on the state of broadband access worldwide.

How PHL scored:

The Philippines ranked No. 110 out of 190 nations in terms of fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants of only 2.2 as of 2013.

Mobile broadband penetration per 100,000 population was rated at a higher 20.3 percent of all Filipinos, landing the Philippines at No. 79 out of 130 countries where this service was available.

In the league of developing nations, the Philippine was listed No. 57 out of 132 nations) with 22,2 percent of households using the Internet.

Overall, Internet user penetration (or percentage of individuals using the Internet) in the country was recorded at 37 percent, landing the Philippines at No. 106 in the list of 191 nations.

The UN report said that “over 50 percent of the global population will have Internet access” in the next 36 months, “with mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets now the fastest growing technology in human history.”

The Commission’s 2014 State of Broadband report was released in New York at the 10th meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development on Sept. 21.

The report reveals that “more than 40 percent of the world’s people are already online, with the number of Internet users rising from 2.3 billion in 2013 to 2.9 billion by the end of this year.”

“Over 2.3 billion people will access mobile broadband by end-2014, climbing steeply to a predicted 7.6 billion within the next five years,” the report said. “There are now over three times as many mobile broadband connections as there are conventional fixed broadband subscriptions.”

In total, the Commission said, “there are now 77 countries where over 50 percent of the population is online, up from 70 in 2013.”

The top 10 countries for Internet use are all located in Europe, with Iceland ranked first in the world with 96.5% of people online.

The Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration at over 98 percent, up from 97 percent last year, it said.

Monaco now surpasses last year’s champion, Switzerland, as the world leader in fixed broadband penetration, at over 44 percent of the population.

Four economies (Monaco, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands) have achieved Internet penetration rate in excess of 40 percent, up from just one (Switzerland) in 2013, the report said.

The US ranks 19th globally in terms of number of people online, ahead of other OECD countries like Germany (20th) and Australia (21st), but behind the United Kingdom (12th), Japan (15th) and Canada (16th). The US has slid from 20th to 24th place for fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, just behind Japan but ahead of Macao (China) and Estonia.

But the sad flip-side to this report is this: many others in the world’s least developed nations remain offline and unconnected.

The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2% of the population in Ethiopia (1.9%), Niger (1.7%), Sierra Leone (1.7%), Guinea (1.6%), Somalia (1.5%), Burundi (1.3%), Eritrea (0.9%) and South Sudan (no data available). The list of the ten least-connected nations also includes Myanmar (1.2%) and Timor Leste (1.1%).

“As we look towards the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that we not forget those who are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. TourĂ©, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

“Broadband uptake is accelerating, but it is unacceptable that 90 percent of people in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected,” he said.

“With broadband Internet now universally recognized as a vital tool for social and economic development, we need to make connectively a key development priority, particularly in the world’s poorest nations. Connectivity is not a luxury for the rich — rather, it is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had at its disposal to bridge development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment,” TourĂ© said.

“Despite the phenomenal growth of the Internet, despite its many benefits, there are still too many people who remain unconnected in the world’s developing countries,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

“Providing Internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere, will take determined policy leadership and investment. As we focus on infrastructure and access, we must also promote the rights skills and diversity of content, to allow women and men to participate in building and participating in knowledge societies,” she added.

“As the new State of Broadband report shows, ICTs are making a significant contribution to social development, economic development and environmental protection, the three pillars that will underpin the post-2015 international development agenda and move us towards a more sustainable world,” Bokova said.

According to the Commission, “the popularity of broadband-enabled social media applications continues to soar, with 1.9 billion people now active on social networks.”

Produced annually by the Broadband Commission, The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the 54 members of the Broadband Commission.

The UN Broadband Commission says its “community” is composed of “a select group of top CEOs and industry leaders, senior policy-makers and government representatives, international agencies, academia and organizations concerned with development who offer diverse perspectives on why broadband matters to drive its deployment around the world and shape the global agenda.”

“It is this multi-stakeholder approach combining perspectives from both policy and industry that makes the Commission’s advocacy work unique, through a fresh approach to UN and business engagement,” the Commission web page stated. “Indeed, one of the Commission’s key strengths lies in forging consensus between its business partners and policy members in developing a joint approach promoting broadband for public benefit, whilst satisfying minimum commercial incentives.”

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