In September, the UN Broadband Commission released its annual report, The State Of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion For All. The commission takes a global look at broadband in both the developing and developed worlds, and what it found this year is encouraging, but not entirely flattering for the United States.
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development was established in 2010 by UNESCO and he International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to help meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It measured broadband by several parameters and found:
The U.S. continues to lag behind in fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. At number 18, the U.S. trails France, the U.K., South Korea and even Malta.
When it comes to mobile broadband penetration, the U.S. does better, coming in ninth, but still runs behind Japan, Korea, Finland and Singapore. The U.S. posts 65.5 active mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, while Japan registers 93.7.
And worst, in percentage of individuals using the Internet, the U.S. ranks only 23rd at 78 percent, well behind the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Germany and the U.K., as well as Qatar, Andorra and Antigua and Barbados.
As the report says in its introduction, "High-speed affordable broadband connectivity to the Internet is essential to modern society, offering widely recognized economic and social benefits."
The report cites a 2012 study by the Boston Consulting Group which "estimated the size of the Internet economy in the G20 countries at around US$ 2.3 trillion or 4.1% of GDP in 2010; by 2016, this could nearly double to US$4.2 trillion."
Although the U.S. investment in the Internet is huge and broadband is an integral part of the economy and social life, we still fail to include broad swaths of the population in this growth. Speed Matters points out that the digital divide is not simply between the developed and developing world, but in this case also within a rich country. We can do better.
The State Of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion For All (UN Broadband Commission, Sep. 2012)
Broadband Commission for Digital Development (website)
UN Broadband Commission finds Internet usage lagging behind (telecoms.com, Oct. 2, 2012)