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From Site Selection magazine, September 2016

Broadband and Mobile Infrastructure: Measured, Calibrated and Deployed


Findings show that while some world locations shine, others are still getting up to speed.


The 2015 edition of the Measuring the Information Society Report, published annually by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) since 2009, features key ICT data and benchmarking tools to measure the information society, including the ICT Development Index (IDI). It captures the level of ICT developments in 167 economies worldwide and compares progress made since the year 2010. Among its findings: A total of 3.2 billion people are now online, representing 43.4 percent of the global population, while mobile-cellular subscriptions have reached almost 7.1 billion worldwide, with over 95 percent of the global population now covered by a mobile-cellular signal.

The report also notes that all 167 economies improved their IDI values between 2010 and 2015. Among other findings:

The end of 2015 saw 46 percent of households globally with Internet access, up from just 30 percent in 2010. But the disparity is great: In the developed world, 81.3 percent of households now have home Internet access, compared to 34.1 percent in the developing world, and just 6.7 percent in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Brahima Sanou

“Progress is encouraging in many areas but more needs to be done,” said Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, at the launch of the Measuring the Information Society Report in Hiroshima, Japan, in November 2015, “especially in the world’s poorest and remotest regions, where ICTs can arguably make the biggest difference, and help bring people everywhere out of extreme poverty.”

The number of Internet users in developing countries almost doubled from 2010 to 2015, with two-thirds of all people online now living in the developing world.

The fastest growth continues to be seen in mobile broadband, with the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions worldwide having grown more than four-fold in five years, from 0.8 billion in 2010 to an estimated 3.5 billion in 2015.

In 2014, the ITU membership adopted the Connect 2020 Agenda, which sets out a series of goals. The report notes that the proportion of households projected to have Internet access in 2020 will reach 56 percent, exceeding the Connect 2020 target of 55 percent worldwide.

“More needs to be done to increase the number of Internet users, however,” said the ITU. “The report predicts that only 53 percent of the global population will be online in 2020, significantly below the Connect 2020 target of 60 percent.”

Country Rankings Show Widening Gaps

In 2015, the Republic of Korea ranked at the top of ITU’s IDI, closely followed by Denmark and Iceland in second and third place. The IDI top 30 ranking includes countries from Europe and high-income nations from other regions including Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Macau (China), New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.

The report also identifies a group of “most dynamic countries,” which have recorded above-average improvements in their IDI rank over the past five years. These include (in order of greatest change in IDI ranking): Costa Rica, Bahrain, Lebanon, Ghana, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Oman.

The ITU report noted that the rapid spread of ICT infrastructure and devices is key to accelerating the progress of the Internet of Things (IoT).

“IoT is expected to significantly impact almost every social and economic sector, including education, healthcare, agriculture, transportation and manufacturing,” said the report. “Most of the value derived from IoT comes from the generation, processing and analysis of new data. This report shows how IoT and big data analytics can help address major development challenges such as those related to megacities, climate change, food security and resource management. The potential of IoT is determined by the available ICT infrastructure and data-processing capacity.”

Trillion-Dollar Baby

A report issued by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) in May 2016, “The Impact of Broadband and Related Information and Communications Technologies on the American Economy,” found that in 2014 the US broadband/ICT sector produced just over $1 trillion in value added for the US economy, equivalent to 5.9 percent of US GDP. Among its other findings:

  • The companies that comprise the broadband/ICT sector employed 4,933,000 workers (full-time equivalents or FTE) in 2014, or 4.2 percent of all U.S. private employment and 3.5 percent of all non-farm employment. Demand by the broadband/ICT sector for goods and services produced by other industries was responsible for an additional 2,784,683 jobs (FTE) in 2014.
  • The average compensation of broadband/ICT sector workers in 2014 was $104,390, 59.3 percent greater than the average compensation earned by other US workers ($65,517).

North Carolina Is a Leader in Broadband Infrastructure and Connectivity

93% broadband deployment among highest in region
The latest analysis by the Federal Communications Commission shows the reach of broadband across the US Southeast.
Source: FCC 2016 Broadband Progress Report

“The large economic gains associated with the broadband and ICT sector have flourished in an environment of light federal regulation,” commented co-authors Kevin Hassett and Robert Shapiro. “The FCC’s proposed regulation of broadband ISPs and their service offerings would stifle broadband/ICT sector investment, growth and employment, negatively impacting the American economy.”

“Today, high-speed Internet is the backbone for 21st century economic growth in the digital economy,” said Rick Boucher, a former Democratic congressman who chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and now serves as honorary chairman of the IIA. “Without ample investment in modern networks, consumers and the entire broadband ecosystem — from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to edge providers — will suffer from reduced innovation and fewer cutting edge broadband services, as well as reduced jobs and economic growth in the nation’s Internet economy.”

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