Mobile internet accessibility has reached a significant milestone, with approximately 57% of the world’s population, around 4.6 billion people, using mobile internet services by the end of 2022, according to “The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2023” by GSMA, a non-profit organisation representing mobile network operators globally. Despite this progress, the report highlights challenges hindering universal adoption and utilisation of mobile internet.

The study reveals that 38% of the global population resides in areas where mobile internet is available but remains unused. The reasons for this digital divide include factors such as the affordability of mobile devices, lack of digital literacy, and insufficient digital skills. The report underscores that while over 80% of the population is aware of mobile internet, awareness levels are notably lower among women and individuals residing in rural areas.

Although 4G and 5G services are expanding rapidly, the majority of mobile internet traffic still relies on 2G and 3G networks, particularly in low to middle-income countries. While 90% of the Earth’s population is covered by 4G, only 32% have access to 5G coverage. Notably, South Asia contributes significantly to 5G expansion, accounting for three-quarters of the global expansion rate.

In South Asia, a region marked by rapid technological advancements, challenges persist. Nearly 1 billion people covered by mobile internet do not utilise mobile broadband services, while 80 million individuals live in areas without mobile internet coverage. The Mobile Connectivity Index identifies India as the leading country in South Asia, with 99% of the population covered by mobile internet. However, only 60% of the covered population has access to mobile broadband services.

The report serves as a crucial reminder of the existing digital disparities and the need for targeted efforts to enhance digital literacy, provide affordable mobile devices, and bridge the accessibility gap. As the world moves towards a more connected future, addressing these challenges will be essential to ensuring equitable access to the opportunities offered by the digital landscape.