World’s poorest countries increasingly wired, UN agency reports

14 September 2006

Considerable progress has been made to bridge the digital divide in the world’s least developed countries, the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says in a new report.

According to the ITU (ITU), “teledensity” has more than doubled in the majority of least developed countries (LDCs) since 2000 with some of them boosting connectivity by as much as 20 times, thanks to rapid growth in the deployment of mobile technologies.

According to ITU statistics, LDCs with the highest annual growth rate in terms of cellular subscribers over the period 2000-2005 were Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Niger, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, Yemen and Laos. Prepaid services, accounting for almost 90 per cent of the entire market, have contributed to the explosive expansion of the mobile sector in LDCs. In Afghanistan, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Haiti, Somalia and Niger all mobile subscriptions were prepaid.

Overall, access to the internet has increased and more interest is on deployment of broadband services in rural areas. By 2005, internet user penetration caught up with fixed line penetration in LDCs, providing access to a host of applications, such as e-education, e-health, e-business, e-agriculture, and e-government.

Despite recent progress, LDCs continue to face major challenges. Many established policies and regulations have become obsolete, leading to inefficient and increasingly untenable restrictions and barriers to the development, the ITU said in a news release, calling on policy makers and regulators to address these gap


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