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The UN Says the Global Digital Divide Could Become a Yawning Chasm


More than 52 percent of people on the planet still don't have Internet access. Men outnumber women as Web users in every region of the world. And there remain massive disparities in connection speeds in different countries. These are just some of the major findings outlined in a new United Nations report about the state of the world's Internet connections.

While average global Internet speeds are now 7.7 megabits per second, there is a gulf between the fastest and slowest. South Korea's average broadband speed is 28.6 Mbps, for instance, while Nigeria's is a paltry 1.5 Mbps. In fact, the report warns that "the 'digital divide' risks becoming a 'digital chasm' [due to] deepening inequality in global connectivity.”

The report uses Huawei’s so-called Global Connectivity Index, which is based on 40 metrics such as 4G coverage and broadband speeds, to hammer that point home. Developed countries at the top of the GCI scoreboard increased their rating by an average 4.7 points in the last 12 months, while those at the bottom only increased by 2.4. That suggests nations with better Internet connectivity are getting better faster than those with poor ones.

Some Internet companies, like Google and Facebook, are trying hard to help connect large parts of the developing world (and, cynics points out, also ensnare new users to advertise to). Meanwhile, zoom in on any developed nation and you’ll find echoes of the same problem—even in America.