Thursday 5 November 2009

UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2009: page 2

See also Page 1 and Page 3 of my notes

UNCTAD's Information Economy Report shows that while the gap between the developed and developing countries in terms of access to a phone is decreasing, the gap in terms of access to broadband is increasing.

In his presentation, Torbjörn Fredriksson showed this increasing gap with Figure 1.8 of the report:

Global and fixed broadband subscribers by main country groupings, per 100 inhabitants.

This is simply explained. The rise in broadband access in developed countries has so far been mostly ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) over the telephone (or CATV) wires. Developing countries have never been wired up in the same way, so don't have the infrastructure to carry the broadband. They are catching up in terms of telephony precisely because mobile phones don't need the wires. The interesting question now is whether wireless broadband will, in time, allow them to catch up in terms of broadband as well.

The evolution of wireless broadband is still unclear. In developed countries wireless broadband is largely delivered by a combination of Wi-Fi for fixed wireless over short distances (Wi-Fi 'hotspots') and 3G mobile broadband. An alternative - and more recent development - is WiMAX, which is like Wi-Fi for longer links. WiMAX is not used much in developed countries at the moment (well not in the UK anyway), but I understand it might be installed more in developing countries.

Some more snippets from my notes of the presentation and discussion:

- Most internet users are now in developing countries. A total of 1.4 billion users worldwide, 300 million of them in China
- The 'financial climate' has led to a decline in the exports of ICT goods (as opposed to services), but China - and only China - has now recovered back to the level before the decline
- Exports of IT and ICT-enabled services did not decline. 'Off-shoring' continued during the downturn.
- Gaps that remain: urban/rural; large firms/small firms; by industries; by language
- Importance of agriculture in developing countries. Note that reports often do not even consider agriculture because it is not so significant in developed countries

Following Torbjörn presentation, Richard Heeks gave a commentary.

I like to keep my blog posts short, so I'll say something about that on another page.

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