Table of contents
Part 1
What are ICT and internet policies?
Part 2
The internet, markets and access
Part 3
National ICT and internet policy and regulation
Part 4
Specific issues in internet policy and regulation
Part 5
Appendices
Organisations active in ICT
Glossary
Bibliography


 6. Regional differences: Africa, Asia, Europe, USA
 

Comparisons of internet costs between Asia, Europe and the USA, allow us to identify the key differences between regions in terms of internet costs:

  • The cost of internet access is much lower in developed countries than in developing countries. For example, the total cost of internet access in Singapore (US$10.56 per month) is much lower than the cost in Kiribati (US$143.73). this is due to lower prices for leased lines, less need for international transit, local peering, etc in developed countries.

  • In Singapore, internet access is equivalent to 0.5% of monthly GDP per capita. By contrast, in Kiribati, a group of 33 coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, internet access costs 3.38 times the average monthly income. In relative terms therefore, it is much more expensive for someone living in a developing country to access the internet than in a developed country. If people were prepared to spend as much as, say, 5% of their monthly income on internet access, then it would be affordable only in 11 out of 35 countries in the Asia Pacific region).

  • Because of the need for direct international internet connections between Tier 3 ISPs in developing countries and internet backbone providers, wealth flows from the developed periphery to the developed core.

  • The affordability of Internet access has a direct correlation with the level of Internet penetration1. The table shows that the countries with the lowest cost Internet access generally have the highest penetration. In Australia, where 37% of people are Internet users, the cost of Internet access is 1.1% of monthly income. In Papua New Guinea where 0.98% of the population are Internet users, Internet access costs 8 times the average monthly income.
  • Obviously where there are disparities of wealth within countries, the less well-off are less likely to use the internet. The digital divide then finds expression along other economic (rural/urban) and social (age, gender) axes.
  • In addition to wealth, the digital divide is caused by three factors: local call rates and leased lines rates are kept (artificially) high in unliberalised markets; the structure of the internet which forces ISPs in developing countries to connect to the internet backbone through international links, and; the cost of international bandwidth.


Table 1. Asia Pacific: Comparison of internet costs, income and internet penetration ranked by cost of monthly internet access

Country

ISP subscription (per month in US$)

Telephone call charge (per month in US$)

Total cost of Internet access

GDP per capita (US$)

GDP per capita per month (US$)

Cost of Internet access as % of GDP per capita

Internet penetration (%)

Singapore

0

10.56

10.56

23137

1928.1

0.5

36.3

New Zealand

11.74

0

11.74

13311

1109.3

1.1

28.57

Malaysia

5.26

7.11

12.37

3869

322.4

3.8

27.31

Macau

13.54

0

13.54

14078

1173.2

1.2

22.54

China

9.78

4.35

14.13

834

69.5

20.3

2.56

India

5.98

10.17

16.15

459

38.3

42.2

0.68

Australia

15

3.42

18.42

19987

1665.6

1.1

37.13

Tonga

18.87

0

18.87

1504

125.3

15.1

2.83

Nepal

13.34

6

19.34

239

19.9

97.1

0.26

Philippines

19.42

0

19.42

977

81.4

23.9

2.55

Pakistan

9.69

10.17

19.86

427

35.6

55.8

0.35

Sri Lanka

5.59

14.77

20.36

882

73.5

27.7

0.8

Brunei Darussalam

22.19

0

22.19

13175

1097.9

2.0

1.04

Hong Kong SAR

17.69

4.62

22.31

24136

2011.3

1.1

38.48

Indonesia

11.45

11.4

22.85

738

61.5

37.2

1.91

Vietnam

15.89

7.21

23.1

393

32.8

70.5

1.24

Korea

23.24

0

23.24

10036

836.3

2.8

52.1

Thailand

5.4

20.3

25.7

2018

168.2

15.3

5.77

Bangladesh

12.9

18.28

31.18

351

29.3

106.6

0.19

Guam

35

0

35

22086

1840.5

1.9

30.53

Fiji

38.75

1.58

40.33

1788

149.0

27.1

1.82

Lao PDR

33

9.05

42.05

325

27.1

155.3

0.18

Japan

42.07

0

42.07

37544

3128.7

1.3

43.93

Bhutan

30.73

12.71

43.44

715

59.6

72.9

0.43

Taiwan

47.08

0

47.08

13819

1151.6

4.1

34.9

Samoa

29.09

20.69

49.78

1330

110.8

44.9

1.67

Papua New Guinea

25.96

26.55

52.51

78

6.5

807.8

0.94

Iran

40.39

12.93

53.32

5181

431.8

12.3

1.55

Maldives

65.36

0

65.36

1978

164.8

39.7

3.64

Vanuatu

75.7

0

75.7

1148

95.7

79.1

2.73

French Polynesia

24.75

57.37

82.12

16834

1402.8

5.9

6.76

New Caledonia

29.89

53.8

83.69

14250

1187.5

7.0

11.35

Cambodia

67.4

18

85.4

257

21.4

398.8

0.07

Solomon Islands

119.34

0

119.34

579

48.3

247.3

0.46

Kiribati

140.93

2.8

143.73

509

42.4

338.9

2.32

Source: ITU, “Asia Pacific Telecommunication Indicators”, 2002.

Wealth is probably the most important feature of regional differences. In a league table, the Americas and Europe would appear at the top, followed by Asia, with Africa at the bottom of the league. Obviously there are wide disparities of wealth within regions, and these can be identified by looking at 60 selected countries in Table 2 below. However, there are a number of other factors that affect internet take-up.
These include:

• The degree to which markets are liberalised. For example, Ethiopia’s low level of internet users can in part be explained by the fact that its telecom and internet delivery is entirely state-controlled.

• The slow rate of roll-out in particular countries faced with particular geographical challenges: for example the GDP per capita in Haiti and Nigeria is similar but the rate of internet penetration in the former is 0.36% as against 0.09% in Nigeria. Haiti is a relatively small island whereas Nigeria is a big country.

• Even in countries with policies designed to promote internet use, the outcomes can be very different. In South Korea there is 52.1% internet penetration (comparable to US and European levels) whereas in Singapore it is only 36.3%, even though the latter has a higher GDP per capita. The difference may partly be explained by differences in political culture.


Table 2. Wealth and Internet users 2001 (60 selected countries), sorted by region and ranked by Internet penetration.

Country

GDP per capita (US$)

Internet users
(‘000)

Internet penetration (%)


Asia

2,298

156,897.8

4.34

Korea

10,036

24,380.0

52.1

Japan

37,544

55,930.0

43.93

Hong Kong SAR

24,136

2,601.3

38.48

Australia

19,987

7,200.0

37.13

Singapore

23,137

1,500.0

36.3

Taiwan

13,819

7,820.0

34.9

New Zealand

13,311

1,091.9

28.57

Thailand

2,018

3,536.0

5.77

China

834

33,700.0

2.56

Philippines

977

2,000.0

2.55

Kiribati

509

2.0

2.32

Indonesia

738

4,000.0

1.91

Fiji

1,788

15.0

1.82

Samoa

1,330

3.0

1.67

Iran

5,181

1,005.0

1.55

Vietnam

393

1,009.5

1.24

Papua New Guinea

78

50.0

0.94

Sri Lanka

882

150.0

0.8

India

459

7,000.0

0.68

Solomon Islands

579

2.0

0.46

Pakistan

427

500.0

0.35


Africa

723

6,781.2

0.85

Mauritius

3,771

158.0

13.25

South Africa

2,542

3,068.0

7

Kenya

338

500.0

1.59

Egypt

1,528

600.0

0.93

Tanzania

271

300.0

0.83

Cote d'Ivoire

563

70.0

0.43

Cameroon

615

45.0

0.29

Mali

236

30.0

0.26

Zambia

312

25.0

0.23

Ghana

209

40.5

0.19

Burkina Faso

200

19.0

0.16

Sierra Leone

152

7.0

0.14

Nigeria

434

115.0

0.09

Mozambique

202

15.0

0.07

Ethiopia

106

25.0

0.03


Americas

15,323

182,942.3

21.81

United States

35,843

142,823.0

50.14

Canada

23,484

13,500.0

44.98

Chile

4,314

3,102.2

20.14

Peru

2,071

3,000.0

11.49

Argentina

7,418

3,300.0

9.11

Venezuala

5,017

1,264.7

5.13

Brazil

2,922

8,000.0

4.65

Bolivia

963

150.0

1.81

Guatemala

1,757

200.0

1.71

Cuba

1,518

120.0

1.06

Haiti

423

30.0

0.36


Europe

11,428

147,269.2

18.4

Iceland

26,617

195.0

67.94

Norway

37,116

2,700.0

59.62

Denmark

30,146

2,900.0

54.03

Sweden

23,546

4,600.0

51.62

UK

23,694

24,000.0

39.95

Germany

22,267

30,800.0

37.36

France

21,737

15,653.0

26.37

Poland

4,572

3,800.0

9.83

Bulgaria

1,672

605.0

7.46

Latvia

3,213

170.0

7.23

Belarus

1,223

422.2

4.11

Russia

1,709

4,300.0

2.93

Source: ITU


1 M Rao has devised a scheme for classifying countries from the viewpoint of the Information Society at http://www.itu.int/osg/spu/ visions/developing/paper1.html

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