The world is getting smarter

11 October 2013 by Steve Blum
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Out of 157 countries rated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 154 had a better information and communication technology (ICT) environment in 2012 than in 2011. Although some countries saw fluctuations in the usage and penetration of one technology or another, taken as a whole international and domestic connectivity is growing virtually everywhere.

The ITU publishes statistics on a range of telecoms and information technology metrics, from plain old telephone lines to home Internet subscriptions to adult literacy. Its ICT Development Index tries to blend it all together to produce annual benchmarks assessing growth in technology and information resources in countries and regions, and across the globe.

Korea topped the chart in 2012 and 2011, but unlike rankings based solely on Internet speeds and penetration, which tend to favor Asian countries, Europe dominated the top ten, with Scandinavia taking the next five places: Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway, in descending order. The Netherlands, the UK and Luxembourg came next, with Hong Kong ranking tenth. The U.S. ranked 17th, behind 11th place Australia and 16th place New Zealand, two countries that have embarked on national fiber buildout programs.

The bottom twenty countries are all in Africa. South Africa had the best rating on the continent, 84th overall but its index score of 3.95 (on a ten point scale) was well below the worldwide average. Scores for two countries in Africa – Madagascar and the Central African Republic – did not change at all from 2011 to 2012.

But only one country saw its score fall: Serbia slipped from 5.38 to 5.34, because it reported drops in both landline and mobile telephone penetration. The report did note that the decline in mobile subscribers was likely because Serbia cleaned up its numbers.

The rest of the world improved in 2012. The global average of 4.35 was five percent better than the 2011 score of 4.11. We’re heading in the right direction.