Around a third of the world’s population has never accessed the Internet, according to the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union. 

The ITU said Monday that of the 2.9 billion people who have not used the internet, 96% were in developing countries. 

“ITU will work to make sure the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind,” said Houlin Zhao, the ITU secretary general.

Despite the large number of people who remain disconnected around the world, the number of those going online has increased over the past year. 

There were an estimated 782 million additional people who went online since 2019, an increase of 17%, due to measures such as lockdowns, school closures and the need to access services like remote banking, the U.N. agency reported.

This “COVID connectivity boost” meant that the number of people using the internet went up from 4.1 billion in 2019 to 4.9 billion this year, the Washington Post noted. 

“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.

The ITU report found that younger people, men and urban dwellers are more likely to use the internet than older adults, women and those in rural areas, with the gender gap more pronounced in developing nations. 

Poverty, illiteracy, limited electricity access and a lack of digital skills continue to hinder “digitally excluded” communities.