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Lack of basic computer skills worries ITU

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The United Nations (UN) arm in charge of global communications development, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), is worried about drop-in computer skills, especially in developing economies.

ITU disclosed that in 40 out of 84 countries for which data are available, less than half the population has basic computer skills, such as copying a file or sending an e-mail with an attachment.

According to the Union, although more data are needed, initial findings indicate a strong and pressing need for governments to focus on measures to develop digital skills, particularly in the developing world.

ITU in its, “Measuring Digital Developments: Facts and Figures 2019,”study, made available to The Guardian, yesterday, said affordability and lack of digital skills remain some of the key barriers to the uptake and effective use of the Internet, especially in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

In the new study, the global telecoms body revealed that in most countries worldwide women are still trailing men in benefiting from the transformational power of digital technologies, as over half the total global female population (52 per cent) is still not using the Internet, compared to 42 per cent of all men.

ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said a report is a powerful tool to better understand connectivity issues, including the growing digital gender divide, at a time when over half of the world’s population is using the Internet.

Zhao pointed out that ITU statistics help policymakers and regulators make informed decisions to connect the unconnected, and track progress at the global level.

In the areas of mobile networks, and mobile phone gender gap, ITU data showed that 96 per cent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal, and 93 per cent within reach of a 3G (or higher) network.

Of the 85 countries that provided data on mobile phone ownership, ITU said 61 have a higher proportion of men with mobile phones than women. Of the 24 remaining countries where there is gender parity in mobile phone ownership, or where more women have mobile phones than men, Chile has the highest digital gender gap in favour of women at 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, Internet use in developed countries is nearing saturation levels, with close to 87 per cent of individuals online. Europe is the region with the highest Internet use (82.5 per cent), while Africa is the region with the lowest (28.2 per cent).

By the end of 2019, ITU estimates that 57 per cent of households globally will have Internet access at home. However, the number of households with a computer at home is only expected to rise by about one percentage point – to 49.7 per cent – between 2018 and 2019. Slowing growth in domestic computer ownership is accounted for by the fact that in many countries computers are no longer needed for home Internet access, with people simply connecting over smartphones.

“Even where connectivity exists, we need to be more creative in addressing critical issues like the affordability of service, cost of handsets and lack of digital skills and literacy to enable more people – and especially women – to participate and flourish in the digital economy,” said Ms Bogdan-Martin. ​


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