Africa still lagging behind in ICT

Friday, February 26, 2010

Nairobi - The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says the prices for ICT services are falling worldwide but broadband Internet remains outside the reach of many people in poor countries.

In its report entitled "Measuring the Information Society 2010" ITU said the ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks 159 countries according to their ICT level, confirms that despite the recent economic downturn, the use of ICT services has continued to grow worldwide.

Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, the Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), said of the 159 countries evaluated in the IDI, the levels of ICT uptake and mobile cellular technology continued to be a key driver of growth.

In 2010, the ITU expected 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 which is a most encouraging development," said Al Basheer.

The world's 10 most advanced ICT economies featured eight countries from Northern Europe, with Sweden topping the IDI for the second year in a row.

South Korea and Japan rank third and eighth, respectively. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain topped the list of Arab States, with Russia and Belarus leading ICT development in the Commonwealth of Independent States (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 them in Africa - still have very limited access to ICT, especially in terms of broadband infrastructure and household access to ICT.

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, more than 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 percent, compared with 23 percent in developed countries