Digital divide closing but still significant, report says

The most recent report by the United Nations telecoms agency the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has said that the international ‘digital divide’ is closing as telephone, broadband and Internet services becoming cheaper across the developing world, increasing the access to ICT.

Yet the ITU noted that though it had closed, the digital divide – denoting the difference in access to ICT between developed and developing nations – was still sizeable.

The union’s 2012 report – “Measuring the Information Society” – claimed that the developing world now accounts for the “lion’s share” of the mobile sector’s market growth, becoming a major contributor to economic growth.

“The past year has seen continued and almost universal growth in ICT uptake,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau at the ITU. “The surge in numbers of mobile-broadband subscriptions in developing countries has brought the Internet to a multitude of new users.”

In developing countries, ICT exports accounted for 20 percent of merchandise trade in 2010. The International Data Corporation (IDC) says that IT spending in the Middle East and Africa region will pass US$65 billion this year.

“While prices in developed economies have stabilized, those in developing countries continue to fall at double-digit rates,” ITU noted in its press release.

Though the gap has closed, it remains significant, according to the ITU. Connectivity values in developed nations are twice that in developing ones, according to the ITU’s Development Index (IDI).

Sanou added: “Despite the downward trend, prices remain relatively high in many low-income countries. For mobile broadband to replicate the mobile-cellular miracle and bring more people from developing countries online, 3G network coverage has to be extended and prices have to go down even further.”

Kenya and Rwanda were singled out as “strong performers” in the annual report, which placed the Republic of Korea as the world’s most advanced ICT economy. European countries took eight of the top ten spots, with Japan the only other non-European nation in eighth.

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