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Youth, Mobile Driving Internet Adoption in Developing Countries: ITU

Aditya Kishore

Research released by the ITU last week showed that Internet adoption around the world is being driven by younger people, and that mobile networks have overtaken fixed-line networks as the primary access route to the Internet.

The report, "ICT Facts and Figures 2017," showed that 830 million people in the 104 countries tracked were online today, or about 80% of the youth population in those countries. This is particularly significant in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) where up to 35% of individuals using the Internet are between the ages of 15 and 24. This figure falls to about one in four globally and to 13% within developed countries.

Mobile broadband is growing rapidly, with subscriptions rising more than 20% annually over the past five years. The ITU forecasts there will be 4.3 billion global mobile broadband subscribers by the end of this year, with mobile broadband more affordable than fixed-line in most developing countries. Meanwhile, fixed-line subscriptions grew by 330 million over the past five years, at about 9% per year.

The data confirms conventional wisdom on this topic -- providers offering OTT services in developing markets, such as Kwese, iflix and Viu, must target younger viewers, since they are the most likely to be online. And they have to follow a mobile-first approach, since fixed-line penetration is going to substantially lag mobile. It also implies an opportunity for mobile providers to take a leading role in the media ecosystem in developing economies since they will control access -- and in many cases, the device as well.

Other highlights from the report included:

  • China dominates growth in fixed-line broadband connections, particularly at the high end. Nearly 80% of all fixed-line broadband connections at 10 Mbit/s or higher (within the developing world) are in China.
  • Africa registered the largest increase in bandwidth of any region, at 72%, compared to the global average of 32%.
  • Global telecommunication revenues fell 4% from $2 trillion in 2014 to $1.9 trillion in 2015.
  • Just under 40% of global telecom revenue comes from developing markets, home to 83% of the world's population.
  • The Internet gender gap has narrowed in most regions but still skews towards male users, 50.9% to 44.9%. However, in the Americas, female Internet users outnumber males.
  • The ITU is a United Nations agency composed of its 193 member states and almost 800 private sector entities and academic institutions. Its goal is to drive innovation in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by coordinating use of radio spectrum and satellite orbits, establishing standards for communications systems and helping to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world.

    Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation

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    User Rank: Light Sabre
    8/9/2017 | 7:03:00 PM
    Not surprising
    Developing countries don't have the support for legacy infrastructure that the U.S. has, so it's not surprising that young people won't put up with a system even worse than ours. 

    Same is true in financial services. Though the checking system might seem archaic in the U.S., it is far better than the systems in other countries. So other countries accepted electronic payments at a much faster rate than in the U.S.
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