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MIT Technology Review

There has been a dramatic slowdown in getting the rest of the world online

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Billions are being frozen out of the digital revolution, a new report is due to show.

New data: Growth in global internet access fell from 19% in 2007 to less than 6% last year, according to UN data due to be published next month by the Web Foundation, The Guardian reports today. The rate grew by 11% on average every year from 2005 to 2015 but has fallen sharply since 2015. Currently, 3.8 billion people remain unconnected.

Delayed deadlines: The UN had predicted half the world would be online by 2017, but that line will not be crossed until May 2019 because of the current slowdown. The UN defines being online as having accessed the internet at least once in the past three months.

Why it matters: The divide is increasing inequality. A large proportion of the people who remain unconnected are women and those living in rural areas, where it is more difficult and costly to hook up to the internet. Lack of internet access inevitably means people miss out on economic opportunities, government services, and public debate, the report will say.

The Web Foundation’s research, director Dhanaraj Thakur, said the slower growth rate was “really worrying.” He added, “The problem with having some people online and others not is that you increase the existing inequalities. If you’re not part of it, you tend to lose out.”