The United Nations revealed that around 1.3 billion school-age children around the world affected by school closures as a result of COVID don't have access to the internet, the Philippine Star reported Thursday.

Based on the joint report by the UN Children's Fund and the International Telecommunication Union, the number is a "digital canyon," representing two-thirds of the world's children, 3 to 17 years of age.

The report also found an identical lack of access among youths and young adults, with more than 60% of all 15 to 24-year-olds, or almost 760 million, not having an online connection at home.

"Lack of connectivity does not just limit the children and young people's ability to connect online. It prevents them from competing in the modern economy," Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said.

The school closures cause millions of school-age children to "lose out on education." Put bluntly: lack of access to the internet "isolates them from the world and costs them their future," Fore said.

The report cautioned that even before the pandemic broke out, the virtual divide was worsening inequalities, forcing marginalized children to fall ever further behind their peers with very little opportunity to catch up, Agence France-Presse reported.

Fewer than one in 20 school-age children from low-income nations had access to the internet at home, compared with 9 out of 10 in well-to-do countries.

South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and are regions where children are least able to access the internet, with a full 9 out of 10 children without online access at home, the report said.

In 2019, ITU and UNICEF launched Giga, a worldwide program to provide access to every school and its surrounding community online. In partnership with governments, the initiative has now mapped more than 800,000 schools in 30 nations.

Some 55% of males and 48% of females had access to the internet last year, but the differences are far evident in low-income nations and in poorer regions.