GSMA has released a new report which has found that 95% of the world lives in areas with mobile network coverage yet 40% of people are still offline. It said this huge gap had “far-reaching consequences”, especially in low and middle-income countries where mobile connectivity is more important than broadband.
In its report, GSMA highlighted four main reasons that so many people were still offline, these include:
- A lack of literacy and digital skills
- Affordability (particularly handset affordability)
- Access to relevant content and services
- Safety and security concerns and access
The report found that 94% of those still not online were likely from low and middle-income countries, situated in rural areas, and women. It said without access to the internet, these people are prevented from accessing information and services about healthcare, education, e-commerce, financial services, and income-generating opportunities. It also makes them less capable of reacting to events like pandemics, climate change, and the rising cost of living.
Commenting on the findings, GSMA Director General, Mats Granryd, said:
“It's time to make real strides on the journey to reach the 3.2 billion people who are not yet using mobile internet despite living within the footprint of mobile broadband networks. We call on governments and organisations worldwide to work alongside the mobile industry and make digital inclusion a genuine priority. Removing barriers to mobile internet adoption will boost economic recovery, improve social mobility and gender equality, and transform the lives of millions worldwide.”
While things seem bad, the report did highlight some areas where progress is being made. Mobile internet usage is continuing to rise which is boosting digital inclusion, nearly 300 million more people got online in 2021, and the coverage gap has fallen dramatically over the last seven years from 19% in 2015 to 5% in 2021.