Digital Opportunity Increases Worldwide

Access to the Web is on the rise worldwide, though developing nations lag behind industrialized countries. The World Information Society Report published by the International Telecommunication Union details the modular implementation and adoption of telecommunication services like broadband and mobile.

Europe and North America lead the world in the digital opportunity index (DOI), a composite index designed to assess progress in creating digital opportunity and bridging the digital divide. Latin America and Asia follow with large infrastructure investments and strong gains in mobile and with Internet subscribers. Relatively new technologies like 3G are among the drivers of increased connectivity in these countries. The Republic of Korea and Japan have the most digital opportunity in Asia; Denmark and Iceland have developed infrastructure in Europe; Chile dominates Latin America and Morocco leads in Africa for development of telecommunications.

Until recently, mobile telephony networks have been a focus for developing countries due to their less sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure. Fixed broadband is becoming more available in some of these countries at varied costs. In Taiwan and China, the lowest broadband price is $22.67 (USD). The cost to subscribe to broadband through Yahoo in Japan costs $31.19 and $40.59 in the Republic of Korea. Singapore residents pay at least $73.17 for a broadband connection via Starhub.

In Europe prices range for broadband subscriptions. In the U.K. a low price for high-speed Internet is $50.89. Access in The Netherlands is $27.97 or more. The population in France can get low-cost broadband through a company called Free, but the price is $37.29. In the U.S. access through Comcast runs about $20, and in Canada Internet users pay at least $41.26.

While Internet subscriptions range in cost from $20 per month to over $70 for entry-level subscriptions, the average monthly bill is $27.59. While service may be less expensive in developed countries, it also tends to be faster. “Economies of scale and modern infrastructure mean that telecommunications are, for the large part, cheaper in the industrialized world – relative to income and in absolute terms,” says the report.

A common worldwide issue is fear over Web security. In a cybersecurity survey conducted by ITU, 64 percent of respondents said they avoid certain online activities due to security concerns. Twenty-six percent are concerned about theft of personal information; 25 percent over viruses and worms; 19 percent over spyware, and 13 percent over scams and fraud. Additional concerns include spam, distributing content, being diverted to bad sites and other concerns or bad experiences.

The report analyzes development of the Information Society defined by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and Millennium Development Goals. It evaluates access to telecommunications and digital opportunity in 180 economies worldwide and considers policy implications for the further evolution of the Information Society through the Digital Opportunity Index, one of the two indices endorsed in the WSIS Tunis Agenda.

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