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Developing countries less equipped to use ICTs to minimise disruption caused by coronavirus

Older age groups also worse placed

This is the ITU contribution to the CCSA report How COVID-19 is Changing the World: a Statistical Perspective.

Since the current outbreak of COVID-19 emerged, many individuals and households are using Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to minimise the disruption and circumvent some of the obstacles they face in getting on with their daily lives.

For example, many people have resorted to using the Internet to work from home, to order essential items for home delivery, or to continue their children’s learning.

Some of the ICT-related data that is beginning to emerge reveals the scale of the profound changes that are impacting people’s lives around the world. For example, data released by Google​ from users of their maps service identifies large changes to people’s daily movements between home and places of work or recreation.

However, for people to be able to take advantage of the empowering opportunities offered by ICTs, one thing they need is a sufficient level of access to be able to do so.​ 

ITU estimates that over 53% of the world’s population used the Internet in 2019, up from under 17% in 2005. However, the proportion of people using the Internet is not distributed evenly across the globe: The figure was more than 82% in Europe, but only just over 28% in Africa in that year. In Least Developed Countries (LDCs), only around 19% of individuals used the Internet in 2019.

One major caveat with these figures is that not all Internet users will have used the Internet from their home, with some using the Internet from work or school, for example. So although 2019 figures serve as a baseline, it is unclear what the figures would be during the lockdown periods in 2020.

Considering households, it is estimated that 57% of households have Internet access. Household Internet access is fairly ubiquitous in developed countries (87% of households) and in the region of Europe (86.5%), but it’s much lower in LDCs (11.8%) and in the Africa region (17.8%).

Those households having Internet access may not necessarily have a computer with which to use it for performing detailed tasks: Just 9.5% of households in LDCs compared to 82.3% in developing countries.

A point of particular relevance to COVID-19 is the fact that use of ICTs varies by age. Although insufficient data exists for producing global estimates, the table and chart below illustrate that those below 15 years of age and those in older age groups generally have much lower rates of Internet use than those in the 15 to 24 year age range.

For detailed information regarding the definitions of regions and country development groups, please refer to the metadata