2025 Broadband Advocacy Targets / Target 3

2025 Broadband Advocacy Target 3


By 2025, broadband-Internet user penetration should reach: i) 75% worldwide; ii) 65% in low- and middle-income countries; and iii) 35% in least developed countries

This goal holds significant importance, as internet access is fundamental to inclusive and sustainable development, serving as a gateway for global connection, digital education and acquiring knowledge and skills, broadens access to job markets and professional development, economically empowers online business, and more. Ensuring meaningful and affordable internet access to all is a priority that needs concrete measures that will lead to increased inclusiveness, for all to reap the benefits of digital transformation. These include:

  • Policy interventions that prioritize rural connectivity initiatives to bridge the urban-rural digital divide;
  • Availing relevant content that attracts the end user to buy the hand set and stay connected. Almost 90 per cent of the population in some African countries live within range of a mobile internet signal, however internet use may be 20 per cent or less. Despite increased access to the internet, its use in Africa is generally low as there is very little content generated locally and or available in local languages which prevent populations from accessing new opportunities;
  • Solutions that bundle different services including digital literacy, affordable devices, relevant content and maintenance support;
  • Public Private Partnerships and donor support to provide low cost devices to targeted group (including marginalized groups) such as girls and women, youth and those living in rural and remote areas to empower these groups with the overall objective of bridging the digital divide impacting them;
  • Regulatory reforms to create favourable conditions where industry players in digital value chain invest in producing and distributing affordable smartphones.

For this reason, the Broadband Commission established the “Global Goal of Universal Connectivity” in the 2020 Manifesto. This target is a key element to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The original 2015 target was set to reach user penetration of i) 60% worldwide, ii) 50% in developing countries and iii) 15% in LDCs. This target was amended in 2018 to reflect a user penetration of i) 75% worldwide; ii) 65% in developing countries*; and iii) 35 per cent in least developed countries.  
*As of 2022, in LMICs (low- and middle-income countries).

Tracking progress

ITU data find that approximately 67 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.4 billion people, is now online. This represents a growth of 4.7 pecent since 2022, an increase from the 3.5 percent recorded from 2021 to 2022. The number of people offline in 2023 decreased to an estimated 2.6 billion people, representing 33 percent of the global population.

The correlation between internet usage and a country’s development level remains strong. In 2020, 90% of individuals in high-income countries were internet users. By 2023, this figure increased slightly to 93%, approaching near-universal access.

Continued digital exclusion

While Internet use is increasing, some groups are being left behind, such as the elderly, girls and women, people with disabilities, people in rural and remote areas, and displaced persons, including migrants and refugees. Special effort is needed to understand and address the specific needs of people in these categories, including content that meets accessibility standards and customized training. There are positive developments in this arena, as there is strong work being done to advise on how to plan for policies for digital inclusion. For example, in April 2022, the GSMA published a report drawing on the insights of policy approaches in 28 countries providing a clear framework for action, with policy recommendations for the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities. In July 2022, UNDP published an “Inclusive by Design” policy brief with 10 good practices that the countries can use to approach their digital transformation in a more inclusive way.

Moving target

As can be seen by the adjustment to this target since 2015, the original target of getting 60 per cent of persons online worldwide had to be adjusted in 2018 to reflect a need to reach up to 75 per cent online globally. This adjustment demonstrates that this Advocacy Target to “get everyone online” is a moving one, and other factors will be needed to adjust alongside, including network coverage, and resilience measurements, and other regulatory considerations (such as having a favourable fiscal and communications policies in place).