October 8, 2013
UN, ITU Reports Tell The Tale Of Worldwide Internet Connectivity
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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Some 40 percent of the global population, or 2.7 billion people, will be online by the end of the year as a result of widespread adoption of mobile broadband services, according to a United Nations report released on Monday.
The annual report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) also predicts there will be 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions by the end of the year, nearly as many as there are people on Earth.
Mobile broadband has become the fastest growing segment of the global information and communication technology (ICT) market, the ITU said in its report. And while broadband speeds and prices vary widely within and across regions, pricing for broadband services in more than 160 countries over the past four years fell by 82 percent overall, from 115 percent of average monthly income per capita in 2008 to 22 percent in 2012.
Furthermore, mobile broadband has become more affordable than fixed broadband, making this a more popular form of connectivity. The ITU also released its ICT Development Index (IDI) on Monday, which ranks 157 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills.
According to the report, the Republic of Korea (ROK) topped the list for the third year in a row, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Hong Kong (China) also made the top 10.
In terms of mobile broadband pricing, Austria has the world’s most affordable services, while São Tomé and Príncipe, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least affordable.
“This year’s IDI figures show much reason for optimism, with governments clearly prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth, resulting in better access and lower prices,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.
However, despite significant progress, the report notes disparities remain between developed and developing countries, which highlights the association between income and ICT progress.
The least-connected nations are home to one-third of the world’s total population, who could greatly benefit from access to and use of ICTs in areas such as health, education and employment, the ITU said in its report.
“Our most pressing challenge is to identify ways to enable those countries which are still struggling to connect their populations to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty,” Mr. Touré said.
This year’s report incorporated a new model to estimate the size of the ‘digital native’ population, who are defined as those 15 to 24 years of age with five or more years of online experience. About 30 percent of the world’s young people fall into this category.
However, there are notable differences between developed and developing countries. In developed countries, 86 percent of young people, or 145 million young Internet users, are digital natives, compared with less than half of the 503 million young Internet users living in developing countries.
The ITU said it expects these figures to rapidly change, and predicts the amount of digital natives in developing countries will more than double in the next five years.
“Young people are the most enthusiastic adopters and users of ICTs. They are the ones who will shape the direction of our industry in the coming decades, and their voice needs to be heard,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.