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UN Report Ranks Global IT Development

March 2, 2009

Six in ten people globally are cell phone users, with two thirds of subscriptions being found in developing nations, the UN reported on Friday.

The number of subscriptions around the world has risen from an estimated 1 billion in 2002 to 4.1 billion at the end of last year, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Additionally, only 1 in 50 Africans had a mobile phone as of 2000, but now 28 percent are subscribed to service. In fact, Africa now has the highest growth rate of cellular subscriptions.

“There has been a clear shift to mobile cellular telephony,” the agency said in its Measuring the Information Society report, noting that developing countries now account for about two-thirds of cell phones in use.

However, in Africa, Internet use only reaches about 1 in 20 people, as of 2007. But globally, Internet use more than doubled. An estimated 23 percent of people on the planet used the Internet last year, up from 11 percent in 2002, according to the ITU report.

“Fixed Internet access in developing countries is still limited, and, where available, often slow and/or expensive,” it said in the report that ranked countries’ information and communication technologies (ICT) as of 2007, the last year for which figures were available.

Sweden was ranked the highest in measures of ICT. The agency gauged countries’ relative access to telephones, computers and communications networks and literacy rates.

South Korea placed second. Nordic states and high-income European, Asian, and North America also scored high.

“The (South Korean) government has pursued a very active ICT-focused policy, making the ICT sector one of its priorities,” Susan Teltscher, who leads the agency’s statistics division, told the AP.

Myanmar was the only country where access and use indicators dropped in absolute terms. The country’s government is known for shutting down international connections and jailing bloggers.

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