Broadband goes wireless – but poorer countries being left behind
Mobile broadband is the fastest growing technology in human history, according to the 2013 edition of the State of Broadband report.
Released in New York at the 8th meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the report reveals that mobile broadband subscriptions, which allow users to access the web via smartphones, tablets and WiFi-connected laptops, are growing at a rate of 30% per year. By the end of 2013 there will be more than three times as many mobile broadband connections as there are conventional fixed broadband subscriptions.
The State of Broadband is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by country data measuring broadband access against the four key targets set by the 60 members of the Broadband Commission in 2011.
The Republic of Korea continues to have the world’s highest household broadband penetration at over 97%. Switzerland leads the world in fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, at over 40%. By comparison, the US ranks 24th in terms of household broadband penetration, and 20th in the world for fixed broadband subscriptions per capita, just behind Finland and ahead of Japan.
In terms of Internet use, there are now more than 70 countries where over 50% of the population is online. The top ten countries for Internet use are all located in Europe, with the exception of New Zealand (8th) and Qatar (10th).
“The global roll-out of broadband carries vast potential to enhance learning opportunities, to facilitate the exchange of information, and to increase access to content that is linguistically and culturally diverse,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré. “It can widen access to learning, enhance its quality and empower men and women, girls and boys, with new skills and opportunities. But this does not happen by itself – it requires leadership, planning and action.”
“The new analysis in this year’s report shows progress in broadband availability, but we must not lose sight of those who are being left behind,” said ITU’s Dr Touré. “While more and more people are coming online, over 90% of people in the world’s 49 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected. Internet – and particularly broadband Internet – has become a key tool for social and economic development, and needs to be prioritized, even in the world’s poorest nations. Technology combined with relevant content and services can help us bridge urgent development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”
For the first time, the State of Broadband report also tracks a new target mandating ‘gender equality in broadband access by the year 2020’, which was set by the Commission at its March meeting in Mexico City. ITU figures confirm that, worldwide, women are less likely to have access to technology than their male counterparts. While the gap is relatively small in the developed world, it widens enormously as average income levels fall.
A separate report of the Commission’s Working Group on Gender, led by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, was also released at today’s meeting. The full meeting of over 50 Commission members also welcomed a host of special guests including Nigeria’s Minister for Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Academy Award winning actor and advocate, Geena Davis, and UN Special Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhindawi.
Other highlights of today’s meeting included a presentation by Dr Touré of the Youth Declaration developed by over 500 young people at the ITU Youth Summit held in Costa Rica (9-11 September) hosted by President Laura Chinchilla, and a preview of a new report by the Task Force on the Post-2015 development agenda and future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was led by Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, and which advocates the importance of including ICTs as a central pillar of the global development agenda.
The State of Broadband 2013 is the second edition of the report. Released every year in September in New York, it is the only report that features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.
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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization works to harness the power of knowledge and information, particularly through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), to transform economies, create inclusive knowledge societies, and empower local communities by increasing access to and preservation and sharing of information and knowledge in all of UNESCO’s domains. For UNESCO, such knowledge societies must be built on four pillars: freedom of expression; universal access to information and knowledge; respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all. See more at: www.unesco.org
ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology. For nearly 150 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world, and established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to new-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology and converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. www.itu.int