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Young people drive worldwide internet adoption

The UN’s ICT agency shows young people are at the forefront of internet adoption, particularly in developing economies

Young people aged between 15-24 are now at the forefront of internet adoption around the world, according to the ITU, the United Nations’ (UN’s) ICT agency, which has just released global data revealing how people use the internet.

The figures show that 830 million young people are now online – 320 million of them in China and India alone – representing 80% of the youth population in 104 surveyed countries. In least developed countries (LDCs), young people account for 35% of internet users, compared to 13% in developed countries and 23% globally.

“ITU’s ICT Facts and Figures 2017 shows great strides are being made in expanding internet access through the increased availability of broadband networks. Digital connectivity plays a critical role in bettering lives, as it opens the door to unprecedented knowledge, employment and financial opportunities for billions of people worldwide,” said ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

The ITU also examined the internet user gender gap, which has narrowed globally since 2013. Whilst on a worldwide basis the penetration rate for men is still higher, at 50.9% compared to 44.9% for women, in the Americas, the number of women online is now higher than the number of men.

Worldwide, it is now mobile, not fixed broadband services that are driving internet penetration. Mobile broadband subscriptions have grown by more than 20% per annum since 2012, and there will be 4.3 billion of them at the end of 2017.

Growth in mobile broadband subscriptions is highest in LDCs, partly because of lower overall penetration rates, but also because prices are dropping rapidly – a mobile broadband subscription today as a percentage of gross national income per capita is half of what it was in 2013, and mobile connections are generally cheaper than fixed ones.

Fixed broadband subscriptions, meanwhile, are growing at about 9% per annum, with 330 million subscriptions added parallel to the spread of fibre networks, especially in China, which accounts for 80% of all fixed connections that can deliver over 10Mbps.

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The ITU said its figures demonstrated that broadband played an increasingly critical role in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“ICTs continue to be a key enabler of economic and social development, bridging the digital divide and fostering an inclusive digital economy,” said ITU telecommunication development bureau director Brahima Sanou.

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