BAKU, Azerbaijan, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- More than 2 billion people are now connected to the Internet but a "digital divide" is denying many in developing countries its benefits, a U.N. official says.
There were 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide at the end of 2011, the U.N. undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, Wu Hongbo, said in an address to the Internet Governance Forum opening in Baku, Azerbaijan.
"While this progress is surely significant, we have a long way to go in our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide," he told forum participants.
Only a quarter of inhabitants in the developing world were online by the end of 2011, he said.
"This low number of Internet users in developing countries calls for increased efforts in shaping and implementing appropriate policies to assist everyone to harness the benefits of the Internet, and advance sustainable development," he said.
The Internet Governance Forum, created in 2006 as a platform for policy dialogue related to Internet issues, includes the participation of governments, intergovernmental organizations, business representatives, the technical community and civil society organizations.
"Clearly, the Internet is an important tool for development," Wu said. "It is utilized in multiple sectors, including health, education, agriculture and industry, disaster relief, and environmental protection, among so many others."