A major new initiative has been launched by Vodafone Group Plc and ITU, the United Nations’ specialised agency for information and communication technologies, to address the global digital divide, with the aim that an additional 3.4 billion people could have the ability to access and use the internet through a smartphone by 2030.
With mobile broadband (4G) networks now covering 82% of the population of Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), the mobile usage gap is 6x larger than the mobile coverage gap.
In line with the Broadband Commission Global Targets 2025 on affordability and connectivity, the new Working Group will identify policy, commercial and circular-economy interventions to increase smartphone access.
Co-chaired by Vodafone Group CEO, Nick Read, and ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, the Group’s launch partners also include the Alliance for Affordable Internet; GSMA; the government of Ghana; Safaricom; Smart Africa; Vodacom Group; and the World Wide Web Foundation.
Mobile accounts for 86% of connections to the internet in LMICs, emphasising the importance of mobile in addressing this issue. Yet billions of people continue to use ‘dumb’ feature phones, without an internet connection, and the 2G market continues to grow. That means the digital divide is widening as the global pandemic has accelerated the emergence of digital societies and smartphones are increasingly an essential gateway to access public services – including education and medical support – financial services, jobs and to run businesses.