South Korea has been recognised as having the most advanced Internet and telecoms economy, according to Measuring the Information Society 2011, a report published by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), the UN agency for information and communications technologies.
The Asian giant held the top spot in last year’s report and is described as being a “leader in ICT diffusion and uptake for many years”. The country’s high mobile broadband penetration (which tops the global chart at 91%), “very high” fixed mobile broadband penetration (36.6%) and household Internet connection rate (96%) are all impressive statistics which demonstrate the country’s world-class digital services.
The report is a useful barometer for monitoring the progress of technology ownership and Internet access globally. The UN also provides a description of the metrics used:
The report captures the level of ICT developments in 152 economies worldwide and compares progress made during the past two years. The IPB combines fixed telephone, mobile cellular and fixed broadband Internet tariffs for 165 economies into one measure and compares these across countries, and over time.
The report makes special mention of “impressive” Finland which, last year, became the first country to make broadband access a legal right for citizens, a key factor which saw it rise to fifth place in the charts, having ranked twelfth in the previous report.
Hong Kong is the only other Asian member of the the top ten, which otherwise consists entirely of western European nations. The full list is as follows:
- South Korea (previously ranked 1st)
- Sweden (previously ranked 2nd)
- Iceland (previously ranked 7th)
- Denmark (previously ranked 3rd)
- Finland (previously ranked 12th)
- Hong Kong (previously ranked 6th)
- Luxembourg (previously ranked 4th)
- Netherlands (previously ranked 9th)
- United Kingdom (previously ranked 10th)
The ITU also sheds light on 81st ranked Vietnam, whose progress, along with that of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, is described as “dynamic”.
Mobile Internet is mentioned as a key factor for many less developed markets, as noted by the ITU Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré:
While the IDI leaders are all from the developed world, it is extremely encouraging to see that the most dynamic performers are developing countries. The ‘mobile miracle’ is putting ICT services within reach of even the most disadvantaged people and communities. Our challenge now is to replicate that success in broadband.
Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea are cited as examples of countries whose communications and technology scores rank higher than their economic and income levels would suggest. In each country, the pervasive use of mobile phones provides access to various services to a great many who may ordinarily not enjoy them.
The report describes the growth of mobile in developing countries as “buoyant, [with] no signs of a slowdown”, in contrast to the developing world, where mobile penetration was found to have reached saturation point, with average penetration rates exceeding 100 percent. However, there is much work still to be done to improve Internet access in developing markets:
The Internet is only used by around 21 per cent of the population in the developing world, compared with almost 70 per cent in developed countries.
One summary from the report, which is sure to be welcomed by Internet users across the world, is that Internet speeds are often much lower than the advertised speeds. The report “calls on ICT regulators to take steps to encourage operators to provide consumers with clearer information on coverage, speed and prices”.
A summary of the report is available on the UN website.