International Telecommunications Union has published the ICT Development Index (IDI), which compares developments in information and communication technologies (ICT) in 154 countries over a five-year period from 2002 to 2007.
The index combines 11 indicators into a single measure that can be used as a benchmarking tool globally, regionally and at the country level. These are related to ICT access, use and skills, such as households with a computer, the number of Internet users and literacy levels.
Based on the latest report, Iran's ranking has improved from 92 in 2002 down to 78 in 2007. However, the country is still behind the UAE (32), Qatar (44) and Turkey (59). Kuwait's ranking, however, has slipped from 49 to 57.
Rich & Poor States
The most advanced countries in ICT are from Northern Europe, with the exception of the Republic of Korea. Sweden tops the new ITU table, followed by the Republic of Korea, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway.
They are followed by other, mainly high-income countries from Europe, Asia and North America. Western and Northern Europe and North America are the regions with the highest IDI scores, and most countries from these regions are among the top 20 ICT economies.
Poor countries, particularly the least developed countries, remain at the lower end of the index with limited access to ICT infrastructure, including fixed and mobile telephony, Internet and broadband.
The report finds that all countries (except one) have improved their ICT levels during the past five years, but some much more than others. Eastern Europe not only features high relative growth but also one of the highest IDI value gains and can thus be considered the most dynamic region on ICT developments during this period.
Countries that were driving this process include the Baltic states and Romania. Other economies that have significantly improved their ICT levels are Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Macao (China), Japan, Italy and France.
Globally speaking, most progress has been made on ICT access. In terms of ICT use, which includes the number of Internet users, fixed and mobile broadband, progress has been slower while broadband, a more recent technology, still has to take off in many countries.
Countries with low ICT levels (and hence low IDI ranking) are primarily from the developing world.
Given the close relationship between ICT level and GDP, many of the poorer countries, particularly from Africa, rank further down, with little change in IDI ranking since 2002.
Some developing countries, though, have moved up considerably in the index over the five-year period, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Vietnam. This is partly due to high mobile cellular growth, coupled with an increase in Internet users.
China (rank 73 in 2007 up from 90 in 2002) has made significant progress in increasing the number of fixed telephone lines and mobile subscriptions as well as fixed broadband during the past few years. The recent government decision to issue IMT-2000/3G licenses by early 2009 and to restructure the market to increase competition in the wired and wireless services is likely to drive mobile broadband and further increase ICT uptake in other areas as well.
Both developed and developing countries have increased their ICT levels by more than 30 percent over the five-year period, but developing countries are still lagging behind on ICT access and usage.
Based on ITU estimates, 23 out of 100 inhabitants globally used the Internet at the end of 2008.
The cost of fixed telephony in Taiwan was the second lowest after Iran globally in 2008, making it one of the world's most affordable ICT service provider.
The cost of fixed telephony, along with mobile telephony and Internet broadband, is a criterion that is factored into the ICT Price Basket used by the ITU to measure the affordability of services in 150 countries. It is calculated by comparing the costs with the countries' gross national income per capita.
© Iran Daily 2009