The digital divide continues to widen as gaps in the accessibility and affordability of broadband Internet connectivity grow. While high-income economies are leveraging broadband to create value-added services and products and achieve socioeconomic progress, low-income economies are being left further behind.
Among the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar have the lowest fixed-broadband subscription rates. In fact, fixed-broadband access in these three countries was still below 1 subscription per 100 inhabitants by the end of 2017, while Singapore already had 26 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Another alarming trend among the three countries is their slow progress in the provision of broadband access.
Furthermore, broadband affordability in these countries, measured by broadband price as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) per capita, does not meet the international recommendation of 2 per cent of GNI per capita or less. Broadband quality among the three countries is also relatively low compared to the international recommendation of 25Mbps, global fixed-broadband average of 70.68Mbps, or global mobile-broadband average of 30.02Mbps.
Although mobile-broadband expansion in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV countries) has been rapid and mobile phones have become the means to access the Internet for an increasing number of people, mobile networks are dependent on fixed networks to meet the increasing demand for high-speed and high-quality data transmissions.
In order to meet the emerging demands for Internet services, there is an urgent need to enhance fixed-broadband access, affordability and quality (both speed and latency) through expansion of the capacity of domestic fibre-optic networks and direct interconnectivity among CLMV countries. This would require investments in the deployment of fibre-optic infrastructure on the one hand, and the establishment of carrier-neutral Internet exchange points (IXPs) for efficient interconnections between Internet service providers (ISPs), on the other.