The GSM Association posted its Mobile Internet Connectivity Report for 2023, revealing 55% of the world’s population – about 4.3 billion people – now own smartphones. According to its data, mobile internet users are 4.6 billion, with 4 billion of them accessing the services via smartphones.
GSMA’s report revealed a disparity between regions and their accessibility to mobile internet. 69% of smartphone owners in North America, East Asia & Pacific are using 4G-enabled devices, while the majority of users in Sub-Saharan Africa are still relying on 3G connectivity – similarly to the Middle East and North Africa, where every third mobile user is still using 3G internet.
The growth of mobile internet usage is not surprising, but approximately 3.4 billion people remain unconnected. According to GSMA, the global percentage of people living in areas with mobile broadband but not using it is 38%. The connectivity gap is striking in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with 59% and 52% of the population not being online.
Another major take from the report is that 600 million people, or about 8% of the world population, are still using the internet via feature phones. Other barriers to further expansion of mobile users are digital skills, literacy, safety concerns, and the availability of relevant content – all these prevent smartphone users from fully utilizing their devices for internet access.
According to Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, lack of connectivity deprives billions of people of access to vital services and revenue-generating opportunities, impacting poorer, less educated, rural and female users disproportionately.
These groups will be further affected by the cost-of-living crisis and rise in climate-related emergencies, and the executive called for “acceleration of digital inclusion and breaking down barriers to stop the digital divide from widening further”.