GSMA Report: Global Mobile Internet Trends Highlight Disparities, Urges Targeted Interventions for Connectivity Equity

GSMA’s State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report exposes regional gaps, technology disparities, and calls for targeted strategies for digital inclusion.

In its “The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2023” report, the GSMA sheds light on global mobile internet connectivity trends, offering insights into barriers, device usage, and recommendations for fostering digital inclusion. The report underscores significant regional variations, presenting a detailed analysis of connectivity challenges and opportunities.

A Few Key Insights:

  1. Regional Disparities: The report reveals substantial connectivity variations within and between regions, emphasizing that 95% of the unconnected reside in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). Sub-Saharan Africa remains a region with the largest coverage and usage gaps. In LMICs, rural areas exhibit a 29% lower likelihood of mobile internet use among adults compared to urban areas, with a 19% gender gap favoring men.
  2. Network Technologies: While 4G and 5G deployment expands globally, 2G and 3G remain vital in LMICs. The broadband coverage gap has persisted since 2021, but 4G now covers 90% of the global population, and 5G reaches 32%. Most mobile operators continue supporting 2G and 3G networks, especially in LMICs.
  3. Sub-Saharan Africa’s Dynamics: Sub-Saharan Africa faces both coverage and usage gaps, with Central Africa having a higher coverage gap (36%) compared to Western, Eastern, and Southern Africa. However, mobile internet adoption rates vary, with Southern Africa leading at 33%. Notably, there’s a slowdown in mobile internet growth in most regions, except for the Middle East & North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, which saw around 30 million new users in 2022.
  4. Device Disparities: While connectivity levels for adults aged 18 and over in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from 25% to 42%, more than half remain unconnected. The usage gap indicates that 16% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa relies on basic or feature phones without mobile internet access. Additionally, the majority of smartphones used for mobile internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa are 3G-capable.
  5. Rural-Urban Divide: The report notes an increased rural-urban gap in the Middle East and North Africa due to faster mobile internet growth among urban residents. Overall, rural-urban gaps in LMICs have remained largely unchanged, with Sub-Saharan Africa exhibiting the highest gap at 49%.

The GSMA report highlights the need for targeted interventions to bridge connectivity gaps, emphasizing the importance of tailored strategies for diverse regions and demographics.

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