Two-thirds of school-age children worldwide do not have the Internet at home, according to a UN report on Tuesday, even as pandemic-induced school closings have made online access vital to obtaining an education. .
In total, an estimated 1.3 billion children between the ages of three and 17 do not have an Internet connection at home, according to a joint report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). .
The report also found a similar lack of access among youth and young adults, with 63 percent of all youth ages 15-24 not connected at home.
“That so many children and young people do not have Internet at home is more than a digital divide, it is a digital cannon,” warned Henrietta Fore, UNICEF director, in a statement.
The lack of connectivity prevents young people from “competing in the modern economy. It isolates them from the world, ”he said.
The report’s findings are particularly concerning, he said, at a time when school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic remain widespread, forcing hundreds of millions of students to rely on e-learning.
“Put bluntly: Lack of Internet access is costing the next generation the future.”
The report warned that even before the pandemic broke out, the digital divide was deepening inequalities, allowing children from the poorest households and from rural or low-income countries to fall further and further behind than their poor peers. catch up.
It found that fewer than one in 20 school-age children in low-income countries had Internet access at home, compared to nine in 10 in wealthier nations.
Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the regions where children are least likely to connect, with a total of nine out of 10 children without Internet access at home.
There are also clear differences between Internet access in towns and cities and in the countryside, with 60 percent of children living in urban settings without an Internet connection at home, compared to 75 percent in rural areas.
“Connecting rural populations remains a formidable challenge,” ITU chief Houlin Zhao said in the statement.
The report warned that even in homes with an Internet connection, children may not be able to connect.
He pointed to the pressure to do household chores or work, the lack of sufficient devices at home and also warned that girls may have less access to the internet than boys.
The two UN agencies did not have specific figures showing the difference in Internet access between girls and boys, but their data showed a clear difference in how easy it is for men and women to go online.
Worldwide, 55 percent of men and 48 percent of women used the Internet in 2019, but the differences are much more marked in low-income countries and in the poorest regions.
In Africa, for example, 37 percent of men and boys and only 20 percent of women and girls used the Internet last year, ITU data showed.