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Tells you what's happening in Telecommunications around the world

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Country rankings
Measuring the information society
 
 
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Photo credit: Getty Images/Michael Blann

Prices for information and communication technology (ICT) services are falling worldwide, according to ITU’s latest publication Measuring the Information Society 2010, released on 23 February. “The report confirms that despite the recent economic downturn, the use of ICT services has continued to grow worldwide,” says Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT). It also confirms earlier estimates that by the end of 2009, there were around 4.6 billion subscriptions to mobile phones, equivalent to 67 out of 100 inhabitants of the planet. In developing countries, the rate of mobile phone subscriptions passed the half-way mark to reach an estimated 57 per cent in 2009 — more than double what it was in 2005.

Measuring the Information Society 2010 uses the ICT Development Index (IDI) to rank 159 countries (see Table 1 below). The index is compiled from eleven indicators covering ICT access, use and skills. The latest results show that between 2007 and 2008, all countries improved their scores, with several showing a particularly strong performance, such as Cape Verde, Macedonia, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam.

Growth has been strong in both developing countries and developed ones. Nevertheless, IDI values are generally much higher in the developed world. The country with the highest IDI score is (once again) Sweden, and eight of the top ten countries on the index are in Europe (see Figure 1), which is the world’s leading region in ICT infrastructure and use of services. Mobile penetration rates exceed 100 per cent in most European countries, and almost two out of three people use the Internet.

Broadband and the Internet

Worldwide, the number of people using the Internet has continued to expand, although a big gap remains between developed and developing countries. The report estimates that in 2009, very nearly 26 per cent of the world’s population were Internet users.

Figure 1 — Top ten countries in the ICT Development Index
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Source: ITU

An important challenge in bringing more people online is the limited availability of access to fixed broadband networks. The report indicates that broadband penetration rates were 23 per 100 inhabitants in developed countries in 2009, but only four per cent in developing countries — or just two per cent excluding China, which overtook the United States as the world’s largest fixed broadband market in 2008.

However, promising developments are taking place in the mobile broadband sector. The number of mobile broadband subscriptions surpassed those for fixed broadband in 2008. At the end of 2009, there were an estimated 640 million mobile and 490 million fixed broadband subscriptions worldwide. Mobile Internet access is likely to further boost the number of Internet users, particularly in the developing world.

The range of prices

As in the previous report, Measuring the Information Society 2010 includes an “ICT Price Basket” indicating what people have to pay for connectivity. Prices vary widely — and can have a major influence on how much ICT are actually used. The latest ICT Price Basket is based on the tariffs for fixed telephone, mobile cellular and fixed broadband Internet services in 161 countries. According to the report, the cheapest prices for ICT in 2009 were to be found in Hong Kong and Macao in China, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Austria, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iceland.

The mobile phone market has witnessed dramatic price reductions in recent years. On average across the countries surveyed, mobile telephony, at 5.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) per capita, is now slightly cheaper than using a fixed line, at 5.9 per cent of GNI. Both of these however, are overshadowed by the cost of broadband at 122 per cent of GNI — even though broadband prices fell by 42 per cent, compared with 20 per cent and 25 per cent for fixed and mobile telephony respectively.

Despite these falls, the ICT Price Basket confirms that, in general, people in developed countries need spend at most 10 per cent of their monthly income on ICT services, and those in the 40 countries with the highest IDI scores spend only around 2 per cent. In contrast, residents of developing countries face much higher charges. In the ten countries at the bottom of the price basket table, ICT services are likely to cost more than half of an average person’s monthly income.

Table 1 — ICT Development Index (IDI), 2008 and 2007
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Source: ITU

 

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