Broadband Internet is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with Internet access reaching near-saturation in the world’s rich nations but not advancing fast enough to benefit the billions of people living in the developing world, according to the 2015 edition of the State of Broadband report. Released on September 21, the report reveals that 57% of the world’s people remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

Access to information and communication technologies, particularly broadband Internet, has the potential to serve as a major accelerator of development, with the importance of ICT connectivity specifically recognized in the new UN Sustainable Development Goals. With the 17 goals now firmly on the global agenda, governments and private industry both have a strong interest in finding ways to get people online, the report argues.

The Broadband Commission comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of ICTs to drive new national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.

“The UN Sustainable Development Goals remind us that we need to measure global development by the number of those being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “The market has done its work connecting the world’s wealthier nations, where a strong business case for network roll-out can easily be made. Our important challenge now is to find ways of getting online the four billion people who still lack the benefits of Internet connectivity, and this will be a primary focus of the Broadband Commission going forward.” Produced annually by the Broadband Commission, The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.

New figures in the report confirm that 3.2 billion people are now connected, up from 2.9 billion last year and equating to 43% of the global population. But while access to the Internet is approaching saturation levels in the developed world, the Net is only accessible to 35% of people in developing countries. The situation in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries is particularly critical, with over 90% of people without any kind of Internet connectivity.