Asia stars in ITU digital access index

The four fastest-developing countries in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) field over the past four years are all from Asia, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

In a survey called the ITU Digital Access Index released Wednesday, the ITU said that South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong had made the biggest moves up the ladder of 178 economies studied, since a previous study in 1998.

The index is calculated from five factors relating to telecommunication and Internet – infrastructure, affordability, knowledge (including literacy and general education level), quality and level of usage.

South Korea now ranks fourth in the world behind Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, having jumped 20 places since the 1998 rankings. It scores 0.82 on the ITU’s scale, which runs from zero to one.

South Korea’s score rests partially on its broadband leadership. In Korea, 21.9 per cent of the population have broadband access, easily the highest figure in the world. The next best broadband economy is Hong Kong (14.9 per cent) followed by Canada (11.1) and Taiwan (9.4 per cent).

Three places lower down (and up by six places since 1998) is Hong Kong, which scores 0.79 on the ITU ranking, behind Norway and the Netherlands. Hong Kong’s score is boosted by its affordable Internet access, which is more than twice as cheap relative to average income as anywhere else in the world.

Taiwan is ranked ninth (up 13 places) with an identical score, followed by Singapore in 14th (up six places) with a ranking of 0.75. Japan follows Singapore in 15th place, also with a score of 0.75. Taiwan is the world’s leading mobile phone market with a penetration rate of 106.5 per cent, or more than one mobile phone per citizen.

Australia and New Zealand both rated in the premier high-access category, but both have slid down the list in recent years as other countries have progressed. Australia fell eight places to 19th (0.74), while New Zealand fell nine places to 21st (0.72).

There is then a considerable gap before Malaysia (0.57) and Brunei (0.55), which fall in the upper access category.

In the medium access category are Thailand (0.48), China (0.43), the Philippines (0.43), Indonesia (0.34) and Vietnam (0.31).

In the low access category are Cambodia (0.17), Myanmar (0.17) and Laos (0.15). North Korea is not ranked.