Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway
In Asia and the Pacific, as in other regions of the world, broadband Internet is accelerating the process of regional integration. It is both a new engine of economic growth and a valuable source of innovation. Broadband Internet, along with related products and services, is the foremost tool for people-to-people connectivity across the region and is accelerating inclusiveness at all levels of society, bringing transformative opportunities to the poorest and most disadvantaged members of society.
However, at the same time, Asia and the Pacific is the most digitally divided region in the world, with less than 8 per cent of the population connected to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet. As a result, millions of people are shut out from transformative digital opportunities in education, health and financial services. For example, in the Republic of Korea, 99.6 per cent of young people have been active on the Internet for at least five years, while in Timor-Leste this figure is less than 1 per cent. The region also faces a cross-cutting gender divide. Women and girls in Asia and the Pacific, regardless of geographic location, level of income and age, have less access to broadband Internet and knowledge-enhancing software applications.
The Asian Information Superhighway initiative aims to increase the availability and affordability of broadband Internet across Asia and the Pacific, by strengthening the underlying Internet infrastructure in the region. The initiative, administered by ESCAP, encompasses regional Internet maps and policy analysis to support countries in their efforts to develop a regional seamless information and communication space. The set of Internet maps developed by ESCAP and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) feature terrestrial Internet infrastructure, including optical fiber and wireless networks, as well as the various segments of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway. This multi-sectoral mapping tool allows policymakers to identify weak points in terrestrial broadband infrastructure, as well as opportunities for cross-sectoral infrastructure development.