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WBA White Paper: The Urban Unconnected

This report, entitled The Urban Unconnected: Challenging, efforts, and opportunities on the path towards a digital society, explores the levels of urban and rural connectivity across eight major countries and uncovers the challenges faced and the initiatives being implemented by five of the world’s major cities. The research was commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) to the research and consulting firm IHS Markit.

The digital divide is still a global and local challenge; the digital divide between individuals who are connected to the internet and those who are not, is a problem faced by many countries around the world. For the scope of this research, an unconnected individual is defined as an individual who does not have access or cannot afford broadband connectivity.

This white paper is the result of the research conducted on the topic of digital divide and urban unconnected across eight leading countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US. The citis researched for this papr are Delhi, London, Moscow, New York and Sao Paolo; they were selected because of their national and global significance in order to provide a global picture with comparative insights collected from different regions.

Key takeaways and top level findings

  • 31,46% is the average percentage of unconnected population among the eight countries analyzed: UK has the lowest number of unconnected individuals and India the highest.
  • The number of urban unconnected is higher than that of a rural unconnected in all the researched countries, except from China and India.
  • 23,76% and 44.17% are the average percentages of urban and rural unconnected population respectively found among the eight researched countries.
Urban and rural unconnected individuals by countries. Source: White Paper
  • London is leading the way to a connected society: it has the lowest percentage of unconnected population.
  • Internet adoption varies greatly even among international global cities: the average percentage of unconnected population in the five cities is around 20%. Delhi and Sao Paolo have the largest number of unconnected citizens with almost 30% and 36% respectively.
  • There are multiple barriers to digital inclusion: various factors are responsible for people and individuals being connected; for instancethe limited spending power of certain segments of society, while other are related with the availability of adequate technolog to access the internet or to the lack of awareness to internet generated benefits or the lack of adequate IT skills.

Among the main sources are national statistical offices, city statistical offices, national telecoms regulators, city departments websites, internet usage or adoption surveys, IHS Markit proprietary data and other sources such as the International Telecoms Union (ITU), the United Nations and the World Bank.

The white paper concludes as follows:

Ensuring that citizens are connected is fundamental for the creation of smart cities and smart nations. Connecting individuals generates new opportunities for civic participation, for economic development, and for personal growth.

  • Download the white paper here (registration required).