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Least Developed Countries (LDCs)


ICTs, LDCs and the SDGs​

The report on ICTs, LDCs and the SDGs: Achieving universal and affordable Internet in the least developed countries is available for download (pdf format)More > 

Global Broadband Targets 2025

Broadband Commission Target calls for 35% Internet penetration in the LDCs by 2025.

Connect 2020

​The ITU's Connect 2020 Agenda – an ambitious vision for the ICT sector for the year 2020 – sets several targets for the LDCs. More >


​There are 47 least developed countries (LDCs), with a population of close to one billion, representing around 13% of the world's total.
The least developed countries (LDCs) are defined as low-income countries that are suffering from long-term impediments to growth. They have low levels of human resource development and are vulnerable to both socio-economic, and environmental shocks.

ICTs to address the development challenges of the LDCs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Declaration recognizes that "the spread of information and communication technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across areas as diverse as medicine and energy".  Goal 9c calls to "significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to Internet in the LDCs by 2020".

ITU has mainstreamed the needs of LDCs in all its activities, programmes and projects to achieve its commitments under the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) 2011-2020. The IPoA, adopted by the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2011. It is a result-oriented programme of action for the sustainable development of LDCs. The IPoA recognizes ICT networks as an infrastructure priority on par with water, electricity, and transport, and includes a call to "significantly increase access to telecommunication services and strive to provide 100 per cent access to the Internet by 2020".

ITU's mandate is to connect the unconnected and to help the most vulnerable countries take advantage of ICTs for development, including through the provision of concentrated assistance. Find out more about ITU's assistance to the LDCs, LLDCs & SIDS.

Identification of Inclusion to the Least Developed Countries Category

The category of the LDCs was officially established by the United Nations in 1971. The UN General Assembly mandated the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), a subsidiary body of the  UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to review and monitor every three years the list of LDCs and make recommendations on the inclusion and graduation of eligible countries using three criteria which are based on (a) income per capita (b) human assets and (c) economic vulnerability. The CDP defines the LDCs as "low-income countries suffering from the most severe structural impediments to sustainable development." South Sudan was the last country to join the group in 2012.

Eligibility to Graduate from the Least Developed Countries Category

Countries that meet two of the three LDC criteria (income per capita, human assets and economic vulnerability) become eligible for graduation and those that do so in two consecutive reviews qualify for graduation from the LDC category. They also qualify if the GNI per capita of the country is at least twice the graduation threshold ($ 2,484) in two consecutive reviews.

Equatorial Guinea graduated from the category of the LDCs in June 2017. It was the fifth country to graduate since the inception of the LDCs category in 1971, following Botswana (1994), Cabo Verde (2007), Maldives (2011) and Samoa (2014). Vanuatu and Angola are scheduled to graduate in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP) declared on 15 March 2018 that four LDCs, namely, Bhutan, Kiribati, São Tomé and Principe and Solomon Islands will be recommended for graduation from the LDC category in 2018.