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More than two-fifths of the global population will be online by the end of the year, the United Nations (UN) has predicted.

According to the intergovernmental organisation, 40.4 per cent of people have access to the internet, however adoption rates remain low in the developing world.

By December 2014, there are expected to be 2.9 billion internet users worldwide, up from 2.3 billion at the start of the year.

In addition, more than 2.3 billion will have access to the internet via mobile broadband connections.

But less than a third (31.2 per cent) of those living in developing countries have access to the internet, some way below the UN's target of 40 per cent by 2015.

The UN does not expect to reach this milestone until 2017 at the earliest.

On the positive side, an increasing number of countries have devised national broadband plans or strategies, in a bid to increase digital participation.

Some 140 nations have taken this step - 71 per cent of those recognised by the UN.

In 2010, just 102 countries had outlined a strategy for the provision of internet services.

Another 13 countries (seven per cent) intend to form a plan in the near future, leaving 43 without any established broadband policy.

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, said it is important not to leave nations behind.

“Broadband uptake is accelerating, but it is unacceptable that 90 per cent of people in the world’s 48 least developed countries remain totally unconnected," he stated.

"With broadband internet now universally recognised as a vital tool for social and economic development, we need to make connectivity a key development priority, particularly in the world’s poorest nations."

He claimed that access to the internet is "not a luxury for the rich".

Rather, it is "the most powerful tool mankind has ever had at its disposal" to bridge development gaps, Dr Touré stated.

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