According to a joint report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), approximately 1.3 billion children between the ages of 3 and 17 do not have access to the Internet at home. The report also found a similar lack of access among young people – 63% of young people aged 15 to 24 also do not have access to the Internet at home.
The fact that so many children and young people do not have the Internet at home is more than a digital divide. It is a digital canyon.
Henrietta Fore, Head of UNICEF
Lack of communication prevents young people “from competing in today’s economy. This isolates them from the world, ”the head of UNICEF stressed.
The report is particularly troubling at a time when many schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. Hundreds of millions of students rely on virtual learning. If they, of course, have the opportunity.
“Let’s face it, not having access to the Internet is costly for the next generation,” said Henrietta Fore.
In its latest report, the UN warns that even before the pandemic began, the digital divide exacerbated inequalities in society, allowing children from the poorest regions and low-income countries to lag behind their peers in accessing information increasingly.
According to the report, not for every 20 school-age children in low-income countries have at least one child with Internet access at home. In richer countries, 9 out of 10 children have this access.
It is worth noting that even in homes where there is a network connection, children may not always access the Internet. There are many obstacles – they need to do housework or work to support a family, lacking a personal computer at home. Besides, the report mentions that girls may often have less access to the Internet than boys.
The two UN agencies did not have specific figures showing the difference in network access between girls and boys. However, their data showed a clear difference in how easy it is for men and women, in general, to go online.
In 2019, 55% of men and 48% of women used the Internet globally, but the difference is much more pronounced in low-income countries and poorer regions. In Africa, for example, 37% of men and boys used the Internet last year, but only 20% of women and girls, according to ITU data.