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November 20, 2003Technology League Table. Summit organisers, the ITU are trumpeting their new Digital Access Index as the "World's First Global ICT Ranking".
And it's a Scandinavian one-two-three - with Sweden in pole position, and Denmark and Iceland just behind them on the grid. Norway (5th) and Finland (8th) are only just behind. The US only comes in 11th (apparently because of its weak mobile phone network), just behind Canada, while Italy (22nd) and France (23rd) only just edge out Slovenia.
Niger rolls in last, just behind Mali, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Ethiopia. Africa's performance is predictably depressing - with only two countries (the Seychelles and Mauritius) squeezing into the index's second division and most languishing in its fourth (and bottom) one.
The performance of Asian countries is improving rapidly - with Korea (4th), Hong Kong (7th), Taiwan (9th), and Singapore (14th) all ahead of tech-obsessed Japan (15th). UAE (34th) heads up the Arab League Table, followed by Bahrain (42nd), Qatar (48th), Kuwait (60th) and Lebanon (67th).
The report's author, Michael Minges, claims lack of infrastructure is not the main, or even the most important, barrier blocking ICT take-up. Affordability and education are equally important factors, he claims.
Contrary to perceived wisdom, he claims English is no longer an advantage. "Over the past four years there's been a big shift," he says. "It's really moving toward Asia and away from the English-speaking nations."
Using data from 1998 on the top 40 countries as a comparator, Minges argues that non-Anglophone countries are on the way up, while English-speakers are plummeting down the rankings.
"This is completely contrary to everything that we've heard, that English is an advantage, if you don't speak English you're behind," he says.
The index aggregates eight (weighted) variables: fixed telephone subscribers per 100 inhabitants; mobile cellular subscribers per 100 inhabitants; internet access price as percentage of gross national income per capita; adult literacy; combined primary, secondary and tertiary school enrolment level; international internet bandwidth (bits) per capita; broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants; and internet users per 100 inhabitants.