The number of subscribers has surged nearly 25 per cent annually during the past eight years from 12 per cent in 2000 and will reach over 60 per cent by the end of 2008, he said.
''The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of the information and communication technology (ICT) and that it is a visible business opportunity,'' ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure said here yesterday at a high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
''Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs,'' he added.
The ITU emphasised the need to carefully interpret the data. A 61 per cent penetration rate does not mean in reality that every other person in the world is using a mobile phone, rather, the statistics reflect the number of subscriptions, not people.
Double counting could occur if people have multiple cellular subscriptions, while some could be sharing their phone with others.
The agency also cautioned that penetration rates vary by region and even within countries.