The UN’s net connectivity table was released yesterday, showing that the UK has climbed up the charts to be ranked eighth in the world, managing to leapfrog both Hong Kong and Japan. This is a change from last year where it was previously at 11th position in the rankings. The report noted that 80% of all UK households had had an internet connection at the end of last year – more than double the global rate. South Korea topped the list for the third year in a row, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway. Countries at the bottom included Niger and the Central African Republic.
Officials forecast that almost 40% of the world’s population (2.7 billion people) would be online by the end of 2013. However they also gave a warning that the relatively high cost of internet access in developing countries was restricting uptake and causing a digital divide between developed and developing countries. Lack of infrastructure including phone lines is a major barrier for communities to be isolated from internet services. It has been said that 90% of the globe’s 1.1 billion households are not yet connected to the net were in the developing world, and highlighted a group of 39 countries – most of which are in Africa – they said were not making enough progress to roll out information and communications technologies. Mobile broadband has become the fastest growing segment of the global information and communication technology market. It is predicated that by the end of the current year, there will be approximately 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions – almost as many as there are people on the planet. In addition, mobile broadband has become more affordable than fixed broadband, making this a more popular form of connectivity. This is not widespread globally though, as purchasing 500MB of data in Zimbabwe for use on a mobile device cost more than the average monthly wage in total. The UN’s official target is that the cost of accessing the net falls below 5% of a country’s average monthly wage. A cheaper solution for many is to use dial-up internet connections, which simply require a phone line.
In spite of significant progress, the UN report notes that there are large differences between developed and developing countries, making evident the link between income and ICT progress. The so-called Least Connected Countries are home to a third of the world’s total population, who could greatly benefit from access to and use of ICTs in areas such as health, education and employment. Younger generations are the most affected by the lack of internet and computer services as online participation is such a dominant part of today’s youth culture.