Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are having a direct impact on social and economic development, according to interesting new research from the ITU. The organization found that ICT growth and progress over the past 15 years has enabled major opportunities for social growth and economic revitalization, particularly in developing countries.
The ICT announced its findings at the 2015 WSIS Forum in Geneva, a global gathering designed to facilitate information exchange and sharing of best practices in ICT, with the goal of advancing public and private social and economic development goals. According to the research, worldwide mobile subscriptions have soared from 738 million in 2000 to more than seven billion today, with two billion of those subscribers residing in developing countries.
Mobile broadband coverage has rapidly expanded with 47 percent global penetration this year, a 12-fold increase since 2007. The ITU also found that 69 percent of the world population will be covered by 3G mobile broadband this year, a significant increase from the 45 percent coverage of 2011. Extension of 3G mobile broadband into rural areas has also had a significant impact on social and economic growth, since approximately 29 percent of the global population resides in a rural area.
“These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date, but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy, as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most,” said Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of the ITU.
Among the most notable ICT trends to impact worldwide social and economic growth include a growing number of internet users at 43 percent of the world population. That number is up seven times from 2000, when only 6.5 percent of global residents used the Internet.
Fixed broadband has actually slowed its growth with only a seven percent annual increase during the past three years. Yet broadband, both fixed and mobile, is more affordable in 111 countries now than it was in previous years, a major factor in both mobile growth and increased Internet usage.
“ICTs will play an even more significant role in the post-2015 era and in achieving future Sustainable Development Goals as the world moves faster and faster towards a digital society,” said Brahima Sanou, director of the telecommunication development bureau at the ITU. “Our mission is to connect everyone and to create a truly inclusive information society, for which we need comparable and high-quality data and statistics to measure progress.”