Internet Use Expanding in Least Developed Countries
It can be difficult to live in the 21st century without using the internet, a smartphone or other digital device.
A new report shows that electronic banking, internet marketing and other online activities are no longer just for people in rich countries.
The report comes from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations. It notes that hundreds of millions of people in the world's poorest countries are now using the internet and mobile technology.
The ITU said that all 47 of the world's least developed countries are making progress in increasing Internet access to their citizens. And more than 60 percent of the people there are able to use a 3G network. The term 3G means the third generation of wireless mobile telecommunication technology.
The report said that by the end of 2017, about 700 million people in the least developed countries had signed up for a plan with a mobile phone service provider. In those areas, 80 percent of the population lives within range of a mobile cellular network.
Given this progress, the ITU praised the growth of digital technology. It said the world's least developed countries are on their way to meeting the UN's Sustainable Development Goal on universal and affordable Internet access by 2020.
Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell is with the ITU. She told VOA that digital connectivity can provide valuable knowledge and information to populations around the world.
"It gives farmers access to information on crops, when to plant their crops, weather patterns that are happening. It provides access to online education to communities...It can make micro- and small- and medium-sized enterprises be able to compete with larger businesses."
The ITU said universal and low-cost internet access can help the poorest countries move forward in fields like education, health and trade.
While the findings sound hopeful, the report identified the lack of digital skills as a barrier to information communication technology and Internet use in poor areas.
The ITU called on policy makers, industry leaders and educators to work together to increase digital skills across the least developed countries.
I'm Jonathan Evans.