Mobile “holds the key” for internet connectivity to reach the next billion people and continues to help close the world’s digital divide, but affordability and lack of relevant content are now the main barriers to internet access, according to a new report.

The Internet Society’s second annual report of the Global State of the Internet showed that 94 per cent of the world’s population is covered by a mobile network, while 48 per cent have access to mobile broadband, of which 28 per cent have signed up to data services.

Today, over 3 billion people are online, and mobile “offers hundreds of millions around the world their primary, if not only, means of accessing the internet”, read the report.

“We applaud this global shift in the internet dynamic, with mobile playing a significant role in the rapid pace of new internet users,” said Kathy Brown, Internet Society president and CEO. “The internet is truly global and every new user online benefits other users, for social interaction, economic opportunities and many other benefits that were previously unimaginable.”

While the digital divide continues to close as a result of increasing mobile connectivity, affordability and a lack of relevant content are now the main barriers to internet access.

In fact, the report showed that the availability of mobile internet actually outweighs adoption, meaning people are opting not to subscribe to services.

This was partly due to cost, which in some countries represents up to 10 per cent cost of average per capital income.

There are also language barrier issues and limited locally relevant content, including a lack of access to regionally specific app stores which altogether limits the appeal of a smart device.

“Despite the remarkable evolution of the mobile internet, there are challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that all users – existing and future – enjoy the full benefits of access to the open internet,” added Brown.

Other highlights of the report showed that more than 80 per cent of online time is now spent on applications, as opposed to browsers, and smartphone services, such as location awareness and cameras, are beginning to increase privacy issues.

The Internet Society added that as demand increases for mobile internet, “governments will need to ensure an adequate allocation of spectrum for mobile internet use”.