Though many lives were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, it however, brought more people online.

Statistics showed that about about 3.5 billion people that were offline as at the time of COVID-19 pandemic emergence in December 2019 have reduced to 2.9 billion as at the end of last month.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which revealed the impact of the pandemic on global connectivity, informed that 37 per cent of the world’s population – or 2.9 billion people – have never used the Internet.

ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), also revealed strong global growth in Internet use, with the estimated number of people who have used the Internet surging to 4.9 billion in 2021, from an estimated 4.1 billion in 2019.

This comes as good news for global development. However, ITU data confirmed that the ability to connect remains profoundly unequal.

ITU explained that of the 2.9 billion still offline, an estimated 96 per cent live in developing countries. And even among the 4.9 billion counted as ‘Internet users’, many hundreds of millions may only get the chance to go online infrequently, via shared devices, or using connectivity speeds that markedly limit the usefulness of their connection.

ITU Secretary General, Houlin Zhao, said while almost two-thirds of the world’s population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet.

Zhao said: “ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind.”