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Global Uptake of ICTs Increasing, Prices Falling

Prices for ICT services are falling worldwide, yet broadband Internet remains outside the reach of many in poor countries, according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Sami Al BashheerMeasuring the Information Society 2010 features the latest ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks 159 countries according to their ICT level and compares 2007 and 2008 scores. "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).
All countries included in the IDI have improved their ICT levels, and mobile cellular technology continues to be a key driver of growth. In 2010, ITU expects the global number of mobile cellular subscriptions to top five billion. "At the same time, the report finds that the price of telecommunication services is falling - a most encouraging development," said Mr Al Basheer. Broadband prices dropped 42 per cent from 2008-2009, according to the report.
The IDI combines 11 indicators into a single measure that can be used as a benchmarking tool globally, regionally, and at national level, as well as helping track progress over time. It measures ICT access, use and skills, and includes such indicators as households with a computer, the number of fixed broadband Internet subscribers, and literacy rates.
The world's Top 10 most advanced ICT economies features eight countries from Northern Europe, with Sweden topping the IDI for the second year in a row. The Republic of Korea and Japan rank third and eighth, respectively.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain top the list of Arab States, with Russia and Belarus leading ICT development in the CIS. In Africa, only the Seychelles, Mauritius and South Africa are included in the top 100.
Given the close relationship between ICT uptake and national income, most poor countries rank at the low end of the IDI. In particular, the Least Developed Countries - many of which are in Africa - still have very limited access to ICTs, especially in terms of broadband infrastructure and household access to ICTs.
Yet the demand for ICTs is strongest in developing countries.

Mobile cellular technology continues to be the main driver of ICT growth, especially in the developing world, where average mobile penetration surpassed the 50 per cent mark in 2009. Today, over 70 economies worldwide have surpassed the 100 per cent penetration mark, with developed countries averaging 113 per cent by the end of last year.

While high-speed Internet access is now available in almost all countries, fixed broadband penetration in the developing world remains as low as 3.5 per cent, compared to 23 per cent in developed countries.

Prices of telecommunication and Internet services are falling worldwide. The 2009 ICT Price Basket, which includes 161 countries, combines the average cost of fixed telephone, mobile cellular, and Internet broadband services. Fixed broadband services showed the largest price fall (42 per cent), compared to 25 and 20 per cent in mobile cellular and fixed telephone services, respectively.
Despite this significant drop, ICT services, especially fixed broadband access, remain out of the reach of many people. In 2009, the ICT Price Basket corresponded on average to 13 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, ranging from 1.5 per cent in developed countries to 17.5 per cent in developing countries. In other words, countries with high income levels pay relatively little for ICT services, while countries with low income levels pay relatively more.
For example, an entry-level broadband connection costs on average as much as 167 per cent of GNI in developing countries, compared to only two per cent in developed countries. Economies with the lowest price of ICT services relative to income include Macao (China), Hong Kong (China), Singapore, Luxembourg, Denmark and the UK.

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