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Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2009
 
19. Information and communications technology

Information and communications technology (ICT) is playing a vital role in advancing economic growth and improving inclusive development. Rapid expansion of mobile networks among developing countries provided millions of people with communication means. ICT applications have penetrated to an increasing number of socio-economic sectors which enabled the globalization processes. Thus, it is important for countries to collect and analyse ICT data in a time manner to facilitate evidence-based policymaking that takes advantage of new opportunities presented by the emerging technologies.

Access to ICT was a central theme in the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS). Although it has been 6 years since the WSIS Geneva Declaration was adopted, the achievement towards its goals and targets has not been as balanced as one expected. One of the targets is to ensure more than half the people in the world have access to ICT by 2015.

Telephones

During the past decade, the Asia-Pacific region has experienced tremendous growth, in the area of ICT, including related infrastructure and services. Access to mobile and fixed telephone lines and Internet has expanded rapidly in major cities in most of the countries. Fiber optic cables have been installed to bring the benefits and services of latest broadband technology, Where fixed line technology is not available, wireless technology, including satellite communication, facilitates the connectivity. However, despite rapid growth in mobile and broadband networks in some developing countries, the rural-urban digital divide as well as disparities between sub-regions remain a major development challenge in Asia and the Pacific.

Despite the triple threats of fuel price increase, food security and financial crisis in addition to climate change and natural disasters, the region has demonstrated notable resilience in ICT development since the previous Yearbook was published. According to the latest ITU figures included in the "The World in 2009" it is predicted that there will be 4.6 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2009, while mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to top 600 million worldwide. At the end of 2008, in Asia and the Pacific, there were about 676 million (1.3 billion worldwide) fixed telephone lines and 2.1 billion (4.0 billion worldwide) mobile cellular subscriptions. The proportion of mobile cellular subscriptions in Asia and the Pacific increased from about 32.9% of the world total in 2000 to more than 47.0% in 2006—and 51.6% in 2008.

Figure 19.1 - Mobile cellular subscriptions as share of total telephone lines, Asia and the Pacific, 2008

Out of 58 Asian and the Pacific economies monitored by the Yearbook, 21 showed negative growth regarding fixed-telephone subscription per population between 2003 and 2008. The Pacific countries (including Australia and New Zealand) the highest dependence on fixed-telephone subscription, with 33.3 per 100 population in 2008. distances and small populations make connectivity a persistent challenge in the Pacific, unavailability of affordable satellite services up another dimension to the connectivity challenge.

Many developing countries increased the number of fixed-line telephones, but at a much slower pace than previous years. In the high-income economies, the growth in mobile penetration is clearly slowing down. Many industrialized countries reached near saturation in mobile penetration the growth in subscribers is much more modest: Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, recorded just 6-8% annual growth rates between 2003 and 2008.

In developing countries, the number of mobile subscribers has exploded with a number of countries more than doubling the number of subscribers each year between 2003 and 2008. of them are least developed or landlocked countries. The growth indicates the existence of underlying demand for communication means and unavailability of other means, such as fixed telephone lines. It is also the low starting level that has made the exponential growth possible on statistics. In spite of the high growth rates, the density of mobile phones remains low, for instance in Nepal (11.3 per 100 population) and Turkmenistan (6.9).

Figure 19.2 - Growth rates of fixed telephone lines and mobile cellular subscribers, 2006-2008

Statistically, there was in 2008 a mobile phone for every two persons in Asian and Pacific. For North and Central Asia, there are 106 subscribers per 100 population. On the other hand, the 2008 data among Pacific island developing economies (PIDE) showed lower numbers (16.8) of mobile owners. However, some caution is needed in interpreting the figures as one person may have multiple SIM cards and they include anonymous pre-paid subscribers.

Today mobile phones are much more important means of communication than fixed telephones. The average 2008 mobile share among the total telephone lines are higher in least developed countries (95.1%), landlocked developing countries (84.9%) and Pacific island developing economies, (76.9%) than in the region’s developed countries.

Internet

The number of Internet users, in Asia and the Pacific more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2008. In the region, the number of Internet users jumped from 160 million (4.2 per 100 population) to 712 million (17.4 per 100 population). East and North-East Asia continues leading the region and China has the world’s highest number of Internet users. The Islamic Republic of Iran has shown an unprecedented increase in internet usage since the last survey, followed by Maldives.

Figure 19.3 - Growth rates of Internet users and mobile cellular subscribers, 2000-2005 and 2006-2008

When the Republic of Korea had 77.8 Internet users per 100 population in 2008, Japan 69.2, Singapore 67.2 and Malaysia 62.6, not even one out of 100 persons in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste subscribed to the Internet. While the figures might not include occasional access at Internet cafes or other public access points, the digital divide in access to Internet remains stark.

The highest subregional rate is found in the Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), but the data indicates negative growth between 2003 and 2008 (-0.4%). The Internet penetration is the lowest in South and South-West Asia with 8.6 users per 100 population, but that rate is changing at a high annual rate, 27.8% between 2003 and 2008. The figure for least developed countries is particularly low at 0.6, but as in case of mobile phones, they have high Internet growth rates.

In terms of broadband subscribers, the Republic of Korea, through ambitious policies and support for broadband infrastructure investments, now has one of the world’s highest rates of broadband subscribers—well above that of many other economies with higher per capita incomes.

Globally, the mode of access to information has been changing from copper cable based dial up telephone lines to new generation of mobile and fiber-to-the-home, which allow people to access information through the Internet, and to use more bandwidth intensive applications, such as video streaming. In fact, 11 of 13 least developed countries do not share the updated data of fixed broadband Internet subscriptions, but deployment of broadband Internet seems to have increased rapidly among some developing countries between 2003 and 2008.

Figure 19.4 - Fixed-line broadband subscribers and other internet users, 2008

The proportion of broadband internet subscribers in the region is still low with the 2008 Asia and the Pacific average being 3.9 per 100 population. The highest average is the Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand) with 22.0, although data from 11 out of 21 countries in the Pacific have not been provided. South and South-West Asia indicates the highest annual growth rate between 2003 and 2008, 27.8%, but the absolute value of broadband users is very low, 0.67, which means that only 6.7 out of 1,000 people have access to broadband. Least developed countries and landlocked developing countries show still very slow broadband growth. The least developed countries average in 2008 indicates that only 2 out of 10,000 people have broadband access.

Some newly developed satellite-based broadband and mobile services can technically provide bandwidth and mobile calling at the cost comparable to ground-based connectivity for Pacific islands States and geographically difficult and under-serviced areas. Such services may provide leap-frog opportunities that skip conventional development modes in ICT infrastructure, service and applications, and may support extension of cellular mobile services. support extension of cellular mobile services.

Although there are some initiatives to connect population centres of Pacific islands developing economies through optical fibres, satellite based connectivity will remain the only means for most islands with small populations. Such satellite services are usually operated by commercial operators who cooperate with local providers in the delivery of services to end-user. There is a need for Pacific islands developing economies to improve the availability and quality of statistical data on ICT development.

In many countries in the region, statistics on the actual use and impact of personal computers and the Internet are practically non-existent. Also, existing data is not always international comparable. Because it will become increasingly important to gather reliable data, the international statistical community has recently revised and expanded the list of recommended ICT indicators and definitions.

Number of fixed telephone mainlines (per 100 population; % per annum)

Fixed telephone lines refer to telephone lines connecting a subscriber’s terminal equipment to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and which have a dedicated port on a telephone exchange. Fixed telephone lines per 100 population is calculated by dividing the number of fixed telephone lines by the population and multiplying by 100. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Missing data have been imputed. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Telecommunication Union, ICT Statistics Database. Online database accessed on 2 July 2009 and World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 population; % per annum)

The number of users of portable telephones subscribing to a public mobile telephone service using cellular technology, which provides access to the PSTN, expressed per 100 population. This includes analogue and digital cellular systems, including IMT-2000 (Third Generation, 3G). Post-paid and prepaid subscribers are included. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Missing data have been imputed. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Telecommunication Union, ICT Statistics Database. Online database accessed on 2 July 2009 and World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Mobile cellular subscriptions as share of total fixed telephone lines (Percentage; % per annum)

The proportion of mobile phones of all telephones. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Missing data have been imputed. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Telecommunication Union, ICT Statistics Database. Online database accessed on 2 July 2009 and World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Number of internet users (per 100 population; % per annum)

The total number of internet users via fixed and mobile networks irrespective of the device used, expressed per 100 population. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Telecommunication Union, ICT Statistics Database. Online database accessed on 2 July 2009 and World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

Fixed broadband internet subscribers (per 100 population; % per annum)

The number of users of the internet subscribing to paid high-speed access to the public internet, expressed per 100 population. High speed is at least 256 kbit/s, in one or both directions. Fixed broadband internet includes cable modem, DSL, fibre and other fixed broadband technology (such as satellite broadband internet, Ethernet LANs, fixed-wireless access, Wireless Local Area Network, WiMAX etc.). Subscribers with access to data communications (including the internet) via mobile cellular networks are excluded. Aggregates: Calculated by ESCAP using total population as weight. Source: Calculated by ESCAP using data from International Telecommunication Union, ICT Statistics Database. Online database accessed on 2 July 2009 and World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database. Online database accessed on 28 April 2009.

 
 
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Table 19.1 Fixed and mobile phones

Table 19.2 Internet
Figures gif format
Figure 19.1 - Mobile cellular subscriptions as share of total telephone lines, Asia and the Pacific, 2008
Figure 19.1 - Mobile cellular subscriptions as share of total telephone lines, Asia and the Pacific, 2008
Figure 19.2 - Growth rates of fixed telephone lines and mobile cellular subscribers, 2006-2008
Figure 19.2 - Growth rates of fixed telephone lines and mobile cellular subscribers, 2006-2008
Figure 19.3 - Growth rates of Internet users and mobile cellular subscribers, 2000-2005 and 2006-2008
Figure 19.3 - Growth rates of Internet users and mobile cellular subscribers, 2000-2005 and 2006-2008
Figure 19.4 - Fixed-line broadband subscribers and other internet users, 2008
Figure 19.4 - Fixed-line broadband subscribers and other internet users, 2008
Definitions