One in five Australians not online: Broadband Commission

Australia excels on mobile broadband but lags on fixed

Australia has ranked 21st in the world on Internet access, with 83 per cent of its people using the Internet, according to an annual report released by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

The commission was set up in May 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The ITU and OECD has defined broadband as a capacity of at least 256 kbps in the uplink or downlink speed.

Australia is one of 77 countries with more than half of their populations online, up from 70 in 2013, it said. The top ten countries for Internet use are all located in Europe. Iceland is ranked first in the world with 96.5 per cent of people online.

Overall, about 40 per cent of the world’s people are online, the report found. There will be 2.9 billion online by the end of 2014, up from 2.3 billion in the 2013, it said.

The Broadband Commission predicted that half of the world’s population will have Internet access in three years.

Australia trailed 31 other countries on fixed broadband, with 25 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

Monaco leads the world in fixed broadband penetration, covering more than 44 per cent of the population. Monaco, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands are the only four economies in which fixed broadband penetration exceeds 40 per cent.

While Australia lagged on fixed broadband, the country finished fourth for mobile broadband penetration, with 110.5 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Australia trailed only Singapore (135.1), Finland (123.5) and Japan (120.5) on this metric.

Mobile broadband is outpacing fixed connections around the world, with three times as many mobile broadband subscriptions, said the Broadband Commission. More than 2.3 billion people will access mobile broadband by the end of 2014, increasing to 7.6 billion within the next five years, according to the report.

“As we look towards the post-2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that we not forget those who are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.

“Broadband uptake is accelerating, but it is unacceptable that 90 [per cent] of people in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries remain totally unconnected.

“With broadband Internet now universally recognized as a vital tool for social and economic development, we need to make connectively a key development priority, particularly in the world’s poorest nations.

“Connectivity is not a luxury for the rich – rather, it is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had at its disposal to bridge development gaps in areas like health, education, environmental management and gender empowerment.”

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova shared this concern.

“Despite the phenomenal growth of the Internet, despite its many benefits, there are still too many people who remain unconnected in the world’s developing countries,” she said.

“Providing Internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere, will take determined policy leadership and investment. As we focus on infrastructure and access, we must also promote the rights skills and diversity of content, to allow women and men to participate in building and participating in knowledge societies.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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