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 Friday, May 13, 2011

People living in the poorest countries in the world are benefiting from a ‘mobile cellular miracle’ which has seen access to voice and simple data connectivity rise from an LDC average of 1.2% of the population to almost 30% in just ten years, according to figures released by ITU at the LDC IV conference this week.

This steep rise in phone connectivity far exceeds the targets set out in the LDC III Brussels Programme of Action, which called for average telephone density in LDCs to reach 5% by 2011.

The democratization and rapid spread of mobile cellular technology – which, in 2001, was still considered the province of people in wealthy countries – has transformed the ICT landscape in the world’s 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries, bringing connectivity to almost 250 million people in LDCs.

ITU’s latest analysis of strategies to boost ICT penetration and leverage this to accelerate development in other economic and social sectors was also released at the conference, in the form of two new reports: ICTs and Telecommunications in Least Developed Countries and The Role of ICT in Advancing Growth in Least Developed Countries.

ITU figures confirm that while the number of fixed lines has barely risen in LDCs over the past decade, reflecting global trends, mobile access has mushroomed, with cumulative annual growth rates over the past five years of 42.6% in LDCs compared to just 7.1% in developed countries.

In 2009, only a tiny handful of LDCs – Myanmar, Kiribati, Eritrea and Ethiopia – still had mobile penetration below the LDC III target of 5% – and that number is expected to shrink further by mid-2010.

But still far too few Internet users in LDCs

The past decade has also seen significant progress in getting people in LDCs online, with 2.5% average Internet penetration by the end of 2010, compared to under 0.3% in 2001. But that is nothing like enough, according to ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré, and remains well below the Brussels III target of 10%.

People ask me if Internet penetration is really such a high priority for people who, on a daily basis, face a lack of safe drinking water, rising food prices, and a chronic shortage of healthcare,” said Dr Touré. “My answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Because the Internet – and especially broadband – is an extraordinary enabler which has potential to massively expand the effective delivery of vital services, such as healthcare and education. Nowhere is this more important than in countries where people are chronically deprived of these services”.

(Source: ITU Newsroom)

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