GENEVA (Reuters) - Two thirds of the world’s cell phone subscriptions are in developing nations, with the highest growth rate in Africa where a quarter of the population now has a mobile, a United Nations agency said on Friday.
While just 1 in 50 Africans had a mobile in the year 2000, now 28 percent have a cellular subscription, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
The world has more than three times more mobile cellular subscriptions than fixed telephone lines, and in some countries in Asia and Europe people have more than one contract each, pushing the mobile access rate above 100 percent.
In its Measuring the Information Society report, the ITU said the Internet is far less accessible in poorer parts of the world, for instance in Africa where just 5 percent of the population now uses the Internet.
“Fixed Internet access in developing countries is still limited, and, where available, often slow and/or expensive,” it said in the report that ranked countries’ information and communication technologies (ICT) as of 2007, the last year for which figures were available.
Sweden topped the index, which measured countries’ relative access to telephones, computers and communications networks and literacy rates, and South Korea placed second. Nordic states and high-income European, Asian, and North America also scored high.
But dramatic mobile cellular growth in developing countries, including Pakistan (ranked 127th), Saudi Arabia (55th), China (73rd), and Vietnam (92nd), helped bolster emerging economies since the last index was compiled, in 2002, the ITU said.
Companies that have invested heavily in emerging markets include India’s Bharti Airtel, Norway’s Telenor, South Africa’s MTN and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom.
Following is a ranking of the top 10 and bottom 10 countries on that index of 154 countries. The full ICT Development Index is available on: www.itu.int