The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set a target of raising $100 billion from the public and private sectors by 2026, cash set to be focused on connectivity projects in the world’s least-developed countries.

In a statement, the UN organisation called for an increase in pledges made to the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition. The project has already secured $30 billion for its various projects and earmarked $12 billion of this to specific areas.

The ITU estimates 2.7 billion people across the globe were offline in 2022, with almost a third of these located in the 46 countries it defines as “least developed”. It noted across these nations the internet was considered affordable in just two of them.

Reasons cited for this large offline population comprise issues with access, digital skills and affordability.

ITU secretary-general Doreen Bogdan-Martin said technology “is at the top of the global agenda, but the benefits of digital technology are still out of reach for too many people”.

“If we are serious about digitalising the world in a way that is meaningful and sustainable, we must take action to accelerate digital transformation for everyone.”

“As the internet becomes ever more central to value creation and innovation, least developed countries risk falling further behind,” UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres added. “We must dramatically improve accessibility and inclusivity and eliminate the digital divide.”