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South Korea Best in Information Society: The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has ranked South Korea as the most developed economy in information and communication technology. In its ‘Measuring the Information Society 2011’ report, the ITU compared Internet access, use, and skills in 152 countries. Following South Korea were Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland. After that was Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The United States ranked 17th.

A new feature in the report is the ICT Development Index, or IDI. It not only ranks all 152 countries of the report by their level of ICT access, use, and skills, but it also compares 2008 and 2010 scores. This combined score was used for rankings this year. The report also compared ICT and average income levels per country. Korea, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand showed higher IDI levels than their respective income levels would indicate, according to the report. According to Susan Teltscher, head of the ICT Data and Statistics Division at the International Telecommunication Union in Switzerland, “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.” The report indicated that total mobile broadband subscriptions in the world numbered 872 million. The total number of mobile cellular subscriptions is over 5 billion, or over 90 percent of the population, and can now be declared ubiquitous.

South Korea also held the top spot in last year’s report. In the report it is described as being a “leader in ICT diffusion and uptake for many years.” Aside from South Korea and Hong Kong, the other notable Asian country was Vietnam, whose quick rise in the rankings was notable in the report. The price of communication technologies, however, varies widely throughout the world. In some countries such as India, Mali, and Brazil, high-speed Internet access still costs more than the average household can afford. Hamadoun Toure said in the report that, “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.” In developed countries, broadband costs just 1.5 percent of average monthly household income, but in Africa, the cost of broadband was 300 percent of average monthly income, despite prices dropping 52 percent globally between 2008 and 2010.

The report also emphasized two big problems with Internet usage. The first is that there is a growing technology divide between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not, with increasing economic and educational differences. The second is that deceptive advertising about Internet speeds by Internet Service Providers is an epidemic problem. The report suggests that more steps be taken to increase broadband availability and that testing of existing broadband offerings is important in all markets.

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