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:: 2.2 Internet and broadband developments

While the number of estimated Internet users worldwide continues to grow rapidly – by the end of 2007 an average of one out of five people were online – penetration levels in the developing world remain low, at around 13 per cent (Chart 2.3, left). Especially Africa, where less than 5 per cent of the population use the Internet, is lagging behind. In Asia, less than 15 per cent of people use the Internet, compared to 43 and 44 per cent in Europe and the Americas (Chart 2.3, right).

ITU has repeatedly highlighted the importance of broadband for development. Many of the most effective applications and services that can foster development are only available through a high-speed Internet connection, for example those related to e-commerce, e-government or e-banking.

ITU data on Internet and fixed broadband subscribers suggest that more and more countries and people are going high speed. By the end of 2007, over 60 per cent of all Internet subscribers had a broadband connection. Dial-up is being replaced by fixed broadband across developed and developing countries, including Senegal, Chile and Turkey, where broadband subscribers represent over 90 per cent of all Internet subscribers. At the same time, the shift from dial-up to broadband hides major differences in broadband penetration levels, which remain very low in the developing economies and regions. While in 2007 fixed broadband penetration stood at less than 0.2 per cent in Africa, it had reached much higher levels in Europe (14 per cent) and the Americas region (11 per cent) (Chart 2.4, left). The difference in the uptake of fixed broadband is also reflected by the penetration gap that separated the developed from the developing world (Chart 2.4, right ).

Global ICT developments, 1998-2008..
Global ICT developments, 1998-2008..

With limited availability of fixed networks in many developing countries, where wired access is often restricted to major urban centers, it is difficult to provide people with fixed broadband access. However, mobile broadband has a major potential to expand the availability of high-speed Internet access, especially given the spread of mobile cellular networks and their wide population coverage. This is also supported by the growing use of mobile phones for data applications (SMS, MMS, mcommerce and m-banking), the rise in the number of countries that are launching IMT-2000/3G networks and the increased use of data cards that allow people to use the IMT-2000/3G networks to connect their computer to the Internet. ITU estimates that by the end of 2008, there were close to 335 million mobile broadband subscribers.3 It should be noted that this figure needs to be treated with caution since not all mobile broadband subscribers are actual users of mobile broadband services.

Global ICT developments, 1998-2008
Global ICT developments, 1998-2008
Global ICT developments, 1998-2008

By the end of 2007, about 85 countries worldwide had launched and were commercially exploiting IMT- 2000/3G networks. A comparison of developed versus developing economies shows that, similar to fixed broad-band subscribers, mobile broadband uptake is dominated by the developed world, where mobile broadband penetration has reached 14 per cent, compared to less than one per cent in the developing world (Chart 2.5). While these trends suggest that developing economies have much catching up to do, technological advances especially in the mobile sector are offering new possibilities and the potential to help more and more people communicate, and take advantage of Internet services at increasingly at high speed.

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