Efficient and affordable ICT infrastructure and services, combined with enabling policy and regulatory environments, allow businesses and governments to participate in the digital economy and countries to increase their overall economic well-being and competitiveness. Some 20 countries have made Internet access a fundamental or citizen right.
Mobile technology is rapidly migrating from 2G—second-generation of mobile technologies—to 3G to 4G. At the end of 2018, 90 per cent of the global population could access the Internet through a 3G or higher quality network. Developed countries' initial adoption of 5G networks is expected to exacerbate the current digital divide, as developing countries are likely to take longer to implement 5G networks. Developing countries can, however, use existing ecosystems and networks to provide universal and affordable access to ICTs. Mobile networks can be gradually upgraded once the challenges to develop a sustainable 5G system have been overcome.
Satellite services provide fixed and mobile services throughout the world. The global harmonization of mobile spectrum by ITU, together with the development of common international standards, has resulted in economies of scale leading to the reduction of prices of services and devices for both networks and end-users.
Mobile cellular networks now dominate the provision of basic telecommunication services. In developing countries, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions more than quadrupled between 2005 and 2017, reaching 98.7 per 100 inhabitants in 2017. In least developed countries, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions grew fourteenfold since 2005, reaching an estimated 70.4 per 100 inhabitants in 2017. In 2018, the number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions was greater than the global population.
Broadband Internet networks are vital national infrastructure. Mobile broadband services, which tend to be cheaper than fixed broadband services, have increased rapidly and provide the most common means of access to the Internet and online services. The number of active mobile-broadband subscriptions have increased from 268 million in 2007 to 5.3 billion in 2018. In developing countries, penetration rates of mobile broadband subscriptions reached 61 per 100 inhabitants in 2018. In least developed countries, penetration rates went up from virtually zero in 2007 to 28.4 subscriptions per 100 in 2018.
To make the best use of the Internet, people require digital skills, presentation and teamwork skills, and foreign language skills.