Vodafone Group Plc and ITU, the United Nations’ specialised agency for information and communication technologies, has launched an initiative to address the global digital divide.
The initiative aims that an additional 3.4 billion people could have the ability to access and use the internet through a smartphone by 2030.
In a release issued by Vodafone Ghana on Monday, it said with mobile broadband (4G) networks now covering 82 per cent of the population of Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), the mobile usage gap is six times larger than the mobile coverage gap.
It said in line with the Broadband Commission Global Targets 2025 on affordability and connectivity, the new Working Group will identify policy, commercial and circular-economy interventions to increase smartphone access.
Co-chaired by Vodafone Group CEO, Nick Read, and ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, the Group’s launch partners also include: the Alliance for Affordable Internet; GSMA; the government of Ghana; Safaricom; Smart Africa; Vodacom Group; and the World Wide Web Foundation.
“Mobile accounts for 86 per cent of connections to the internet in LMICs, emphasising the importance of mobile in addressing this issue. Yet billions of people continue to use ‘dumb’ feature phones, without an internet connection, and the 2G market continues to grow.
“That means the digital divide is widening as the global pandemic has accelerated the emergence of digital societies and smartphones are increasingly an essential gateway to access public services – including education and medical support – financial services, jobs and to run businesses,” the release said.
The Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said: “While Ghana and other countries have made great strides in the development of mobile infrastructure and the usage of digital services such as mobile money, it is noticeable that 45 per cent of people in West Africa are covered by mobile broadband networks but do not use the internet.
“Addressing the mobile internet usage gap is vital for the long-term economic development of my country and many others across the world and will require new partnerships and focused action from a range of organisations.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana, Mrs Patricia Obo-Nai said: ‘’We are excited that, as a result of this collaboration, we are addressing one of the world’s most pressing issues. Without a doubt, this will support our digitisation efforts, and it is also linked to increasing education, enhancing healthcare and enabling access to financial services.
“We are committed to building new models of collaborations with other businesses, governments, international organisations, and civil society to find lasting solution that will address global issues and benefit everyone,” she added.