Information and Communication Technology uptake has continued to grow worldwide, spurred by a steady fall in the price of telephone and broadband Internet services.
New figures released on Thursday by the International Telecommunications Union confirmed this.
However, the report shows that Nigeria and other countries in Africa need to do more to gain top ranking in Information and Communications Technologies. The situation is coming despite the advances in mobile telecommunication penetration in the region.
The new data, released in ITU’s flagship annual report, Measuring the Information Society 2012, ranked the Republic of Korea as the world’s most advanced ICT economy, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.
Of the 10 top-ranked countries, eight are from Europe. The two remaining countries come from the Asia-Pacific region, with the Republic of Korea in the first place, and Japan coming eighth.
The top five countries have not changed their rank between 2010 and 2011. The only new entrant in the top 10 is the United Kingdom, which moved up from 14th place in 2011 to ninth place in 2012.
ITU’s ICT Development Index ranks 155 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills, and compares 2010 and 2011 scores.
All countries in the IDI top 30 are high-income countries, underlining the strong link between income and ICT progress.
Although the full report has not yet been released, the United States occupies the first position in terms of the revenue generated from telecommunications in 2010. The only country showing up from Africa among the first 20 nations is South Africa, which occupies the 16th position.
There are huge differences between developed and developing countries, with IDI values on average twice as high in the developed world compared with developing countries.
The report identifies the group of countries with the lowest IDI levels – so-called ‘Least Connected Countries’ – and highlights the need for policy makers to pay keen attention to this group.
ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré, said, “ITU’s Measuring the Information Society report is the most comprehensive statistical and analytical report on the shape of ICT markets worldwide.
“Our reputation as a wholly impartial and reliable source of ICT market statistics makes this report the annual industry benchmark for technology development.”
Developing countries account for the lion’s share of mobile growth.
The report also identifies countries, which have made the most progress when it comes to ICT development.
These dynamic ICT markets are mostly located in the developing world – evidence that many developing countries are catching up quickly in efforts to bridge the so-called ‘digital divide’.
The strong performers are Bahrain, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
In the mobile sector, developing countries now account for the lion’s share of market growth.
Mobile-cellular subscriptions register continuous double-digit growth in developing country markets, for a global total of six billion mobile subscriptions by end 2011. China and India each account for around one billion subscriptions.
Mobile broadband continues to be the ICT service displaying the sharpest growth rates.
Over the past year, growth in mobile-broadband services has been at 40 per cent globally and 78 per cent in developing countries.
There are now twice as many mobile-broadband subscriptions as fixed-broadband subscriptions worldwide.
Prices of ICT services drop by 30%
Globally, telecommunication and Internet services are becoming more affordable.
According to a report by ICT Price Basket, which spans 161 economies and combines the average cost of fixed-telephone, mobile-cellular and fixed-broadband Internet services, the price of ICT services dropped by 30 per cent globally between 2008 and 2011, with the biggest decrease in fixed- broadband Internet services, where average prices came down by 75 per cent.
While prices in developed economies have stabilised, those in developing countries continue to fall at double-digit rates.
That said, fixed-broadband services still remain too expensive in most developing countries: by the end 2011, the price of a basic, monthly fixed-broadband package represented over 40 per cent of monthly gross national income per capita.
This compares to 1.7 per cent in developed economies. Affordability targets set in 2011 by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, on which ITU serves as co-vice chair, set the targeted cost of an entry-level broadband subscription at less than five per cent of GNI.
One promising development is the growth of mobile-broadband services. In developing countries, mobile-broadband services are more widely accessible and, in the case of low-volume packages, less costly than fixed-broadband Internet services.
Mobile broadband was expected to boost Internet use, which stood at 32 per cent globally and 24 per cent in developing countries at the end 2011, the report said.
Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Mr. Brahima Sanou, said, “The past year has seen continued and almost universal growth in ICT uptake. The surge in numbers of mobile-broadband subscriptions in developing countries has brought the Internet to a multitude of new users.
“But despite the downward trend, prices remain relatively high in many low-income countries. For mobile broadband to replicate the mobile-cellular miracle and bring more people from developing countries online, 3G network coverage has to be extended and prices have to go down even further.”
Developing countries are key growth markets
The report also shows that the ICT sector has become a major contributor to economic growth. For instance, in 2010, global exports of ICT goods accounted for 12 per cent of world merchandise trade, and as much as 20 per cent in developing countries.
ITU data show that global revenues from telecommunication services reached $1.5tn in 2010, corresponding to 2.4 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.
Investment (measured by capital expenditure) in telecommunications amounted to over $241bn, or an estimated two per cent of the world’s total gross fixed capital formation.
The figures highlight the important role developing countries are playing in terms of telecommunication revenues and investments, particularly during the recent economic crisis.
Between 2007 and 2010, both telecom revenues and investment had grown by 22 per cent in developing countries, whereas revenues stagnated in developed countries.
Developing countries are also increasingly becoming attractive destinations for foreign direct investment in telecommunications.
By the beginning 2011, nine of the top 20 telecom markets globally in terms of revenues were developing country markets – including Brazil, China, India and Mexico – and developing countries accounted for 35 per cent of world telecommunication revenue.
At the same time, ITU research and data suggest that developing countries need a relatively higher level of investment in advanced ICT services to fuel growth, mainly because ICT infrastructure levels are still limited.
Source : Punch Newspaper