The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has revealed that while mobile phone use and internet availability are rapidly increasing in developing countries - the "digital divide" between rich and poor is still huge.

According to the report, mobile phone subscribers have almost tripled in developing countries over the last 5 years, and now make up some 58% of mobile subscribers worldwide.

UNCTAD states: "In Africa, where the increase in terms of the number of mobile phone subscribers and penetration has been greatest, this technology can improve the economic life of the population as a whole".

The report emphasised the importance of mobile phones for small businesses in developing countries, "reducing costs and increasing the speed of transactions", says Reuters.

The report continues: "Mobile telephony provides market information for, and improves the earnings of, various communities, such as the fishermen of Kerala, the farmers of Rajasthan, the rural communities in Uganda, and the small vendors in South Africa, Senegal and Kenya".

Internet availability continues to rise in developing countries but this is where the "digital divide" between poor and wealthy nations really shows.

"In 2002, internet availability in developed countries was 10 times higher than in developing countries; in 2006, it was 6 times higher", the report said.

Developed countries also continue to lead internet subscriptions worldwide, and the gap in terms of internet broadband penetration has widened since 2002, it adds.

UNCTAD ended the report by acknowledging that the revolution in information and communication technology was spreading to the developing world but emphasised that more needs to be done to make sure poorer countries reaped its opportunities in growth and development.

Among its recommendations were that countries invest more in human capital and infrastructure as well as better policing of the online domain.