Latest data released by the International Telecommunications Union, ITU shows that even as about 4.1 billion people are now online, 3.6 billion representing almost half of the world population are still offline.
It also indicates that in most countries worldwide, women are still trailing men in benefiting from the transformational power of digital technologies.
The ITU new Measuring digital development series estimates that over half the total global female population (52 per cent) is still not using the Internet, compared to 42 per cent of all men.
Overall, the proportion of all women using the Internet globally is 48 per cent, against 58 per cent of all men.
It, however, indicates that more men than women use the Internet in every region of the world except the Americas, which has near-parity.
According to the report, the gap is widest in developing countries, especially least developed countries.
ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said: “ITU’s measuring digital development reports are a powerful tool to better understand connectivity issues, including the growing digital gender divide, at a time when over half of the world’s population is using the Internet.
“ITU statistics help policy-makers and regulators make informed policy decisions to connect the unconnected and track progress at the global level.”
Mobile networks and the mobile phone gender gap
The ITU data shows that 97 per cent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal and 93 per cent within reach of a 3G network.
In the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, over 95 per cent of the population is covered by a 3G or higher mobile broadband network. In the Arab States the figure stands at 91 per cent; the Commonwealth of the Independent States, 88 per cent; and Africa, 79 per cent.
Of the 85 countries that provided data on mobile phone ownership, 61 have a higher proportion of men with mobile phones than women. Of the 24 remaining countries where there is gender parity in mobile phone ownership, Chile has the highest digital gender gap in favour of women at 12 per cent.
3.6 billion people still offline
Similarly, the ITU report confirms that internet use continues to grow globally, with 4.1 billion people now using the Internet (53.6%) of the global population.
However, an estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, with the majority of the unconnected living in the Least Developed Countries where an average of just two out of every 10 people are online.
Barriers to Internet use
Affordability and lack of digital skills remain some of the key barriers to the uptake and effective use of the Internet, especially in the world’s Least Developed Countries.