Over three billion people are now online and information and communication technology (ICT) growth remains buoyant in just about every country worldwide, according to ITU’s annual Measuring the Information Society Report.
The latest data shows that internet use continues to grow steadily, at 6.6 per cent globally in 2014 (3.3 per cent in developed countries, 8.7 per cent in the developing world). The number of internet users in developing countries has doubled in five years (2009-2014), with two thirds of all people online now living in the developing world.
Of the 4.3 billion people not yet using the internet, 90 per cent live in developing countries. In the world’s 42 Least Connected Countries (LCCs), which are home to 2.5 billion people, access to ICTs remains largely out of reach, particularly for these countries’ large rural populations.
“ICTs have the potential to make the world a much better place – in particular for those who are the poorest and the most disenfranchised, including women, youth, and those with disabilities,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré. “This important report is a critical part of the global ICT development process. Without measurement we cannot track progress, which is why ITU gathers ICT statistics for 200 economies across over 100 indicators.”
In the mobile cellular segment, the report estimates that by end 2014 there will be seven billion mobile subscriptions, roughly corresponding to the total global population. But it warns against concluding that everyone is connected; instead, many users have multiple subscriptions, with global growth figures sometimes translating into little real improvement in the level of connectivity of those at the very bottom of the pyramid. An estimated 450 million people worldwide live in places which are still out of reach of mobile cellular service.
Encouragingly, the report notes substantial improvements in access to international bandwidth in poorer countries, with developing nations’ share of total global international bandwidth rising from just 9 per cent in 2004 to over 30 per cent today. But lack of sufficient international internet bandwidth in many of the LCCs remains an important barrier to ICT uptake in these countries, and often limits the quality of internet access.
“It is precisely in poor and rural areas where ICTs can make a particularly significant impact,” said Brahima Sanou, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produces the report.
Denmark ranked top in ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI)*, a composite measurement that ranks 166 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills. It is followed by the Republic of Korea.
The IDI top 30-ranking include countries from Europe and high-income nations from other regions including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Japan, Macao (China), New Zealand, Singapore and the United States. Almost all countries surveyed improved their IDI ranking this year.
In terms of regional comparisons, Europe’s average IDI value of 7.14 remains well ahead of the next best-performing region, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS - 5.33), followed by the Americas (4.86), Asia & the Pacific (4.57), the Arab States (4.55), and Africa at 2.31.
The CIS and the Arab States showed the highest improvement in regional IDI averages over the past 12 months.
The report identifies a group of ‘most dynamic countries’, which have recorded above-average improvements in their IDI rank over the past 12 months. These include (in order of most improved): United Arab Emirates, Fiji, Cape Verde, Thailand, Oman, Qatar, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Georgia.
IDI values are on average twice as high in the developed world compared with developing countries.
By the end of this year, almost 44 per cent of households globally will have internet access at home, up from 40 per cent last year and 30 per cent in 2010. In the developed world, 78 per cent of households now have home internet access, compared to 31 per cent in developing countries, and just 5 per cent in the 48 UN Least Developed Countries.
This story also appears on IBC’s Content Everywhere.