South Korea Tops 'Information Society' Report
Falling prices are fueling growth in high-speed Internet services, especially in developing countries. Last week the International Telecommunication Union released its "Measuring the Information Society 2011" report. The ITU, part of the United Nations, compared access, use and skills in one hundred fifty-two countries.
The report says South Korea has the world's most developed economy in information and communication technology, or ICT. Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland were also among the top five in the ICT Development Index. The index compares two thousand eight and two thousand ten scores.
Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Vietnam and Russia had some of the biggest improvements between those years.
Susan Teltscher is head of the ICT Data and Statistics Division at the International Telecommunication Union in Switzerland. She says most of the growth in this industry has come from one source.
SUSAN TELTSCHER: "Mobile broadband is now leading the growth race among the different ICT indicators -- much higher than the other key indicators that we look at, like regular mobile phone subscriptions, fixed telephone or fixed broadband. Mobile broadband is really the most dynamic sector right now. And the good news is that it's also starting to grow in developing countries."
Mobile broadband subscriptions reached eight hundred seventy-two million by the end of last year. Three hundred million of those are in developing countries. Ms. Teltscher says growth in these countries can help reduce the digital divide with wealthier societies.
SUSAN TELTSCHER: "If we can bring Internet over the mobile phones, then we can really make a difference in terms of improving Internet access also in developing countries."
She says falling prices are adding to the growth.
SUSAN TELTSCHER: "Especially in the broadband area, the prices dropped by over fifty percent between two thousand eight and two thousand ten -- which is a very encouraging finding because this was primarily drops in the developing countries."
Even so, the report says people in many low-income countries are still paying too much for high-speed Internet connections. In Africa, for example, broadband service for a home or office cost almost three times an average monthly income last year. That was down from six and a half times as much in two thousand eight.
Also, there are big differences in broadband speed and quality from country to country.
National levels of technology development have traditionally been closely linked to national income levels. But Susan Teltscher at the ITU says a strong public policy on technology has made a difference in South Korea.
SUSAN TELTSCHER: "If you look at their income level and what they have been achieving in terms of ICT development, it's actually higher than what you would expect given their national income."
South Korea has the fourth largest economy in Asia.