|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
|Figure 1 — Top ten countries in the ICT Development Index
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
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
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
|Table 1 — ICT Development Index (IDI), 2008 and 2007