|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on International Telecommunication Union’s Report
‘Measuring the Information Society 2010’
Data collected by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) over six years revealed that, while still significant, the digital divide was shrinking slightly ‑‑ accompanied by falling Internet and telecommunications costs between 2008 to 2009 worldwide ‑‑ but the relatively high cost of Internet broadband services still deserved concern from policymakers.
Speaking to journalists at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, Susan Teltscher, Head of the ITU’s Market Information and Statistics Division, stressed that Internet broadband access was still out of reach for most people in developing countries, despite falling costs around the world. Progress among economies that fared most poorly on that front continued to remain “at a rather low level”, with the penetration rate for broadband Internet services in sub-Saharan Africa at 1 per cent, compared to a 39-per cent rate of use for mobile phones.
Released today, the latest ICT Development Index in the ITU’s newest report, Measuring the Information Society 2010, placed eight European countries among the world’s top ten, with Sweden taking the number one spot for the second consecutive year. The Republic of Korea was ranked third and Japan eighth. The rankings were based on progress in 11 indicators measuring Internet and telecommunications (ICT) access, ICT usage and related skills in 159 economies, between 2007 and 2008.
Ms. Teltscher said the scores had increased in all instances, showing a growing trend in ICT access and usage worldwide. At the end of 2009, penetration rates for mobile phones reached 67 per cent around the world, with the global mobile phone subscribers expected to top five billion in 2010.
She said a price basket measuring the affordability of three types of ICT services in 161 countries ‑‑ fixed telephony, mobile telephony and fixed broadband ‑‑ showed that the price of all three were falling, especially fixed broadband. ICT spending as a portion of a person’s income was lowest in developed economies such as Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait and Luxembourg, making up no more than 0.6 per cent of per capita gross national income.
In comparison, those costs could reach as high as 50 per cent of per capita national income in developing countries, she said, although those costs were falling in those countries as well.
The United States, the top country in the Americas, was ranked 19th in the ICT Development Index, but with the United States Federal Communications Commission expected to unveil a new broadband plan in March, Ms. Teltscher said it was likely that new initiatives could effect the country’s ranking in the future. Compared to leading countries in Europe, the number of mobile subscriptions and households with Internet access in the United States were not as high.
“Europe is really the leader when it comes to ICT uptake and use,” she said, explaining that, in terms of mobile phone use, Europe had had an early start. “[ Europe] had very high numbers very early on. It just takes time to catch up with those numbers.”
She said the top five countries in Europe and Asia were fairly high in the global ranking, but the differences between countries within other regions of the world ‑‑ such as Africa ‑‑ were more stark. But, it was in such regions where progress was strongest, including countries like Nigeria and Cape Verde. In addition, new undersea cables would soon connect East Africa with the rest of the world, and, with more countries providing licenses to third generation network (3‑G) providers, ICT growth was projected to be strong.
However, she also explained that index values were rising fast on that continent because “Africa was starting from very low levels,” and that it was not clear whether Africa’s development would jump in tandem with improved ICT access.
“It takes a certain threshold level of use of Internet and new technology before the economy and the country takes off and you have the network effects and other benefits kicking in,” she said.
Asked to comment on Internet censorship and its effects on access to quality information, Ms. Teltscher said the ITU was interested in examining that situation, but that current statistics did not capture that effect adequately.
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