‘Alarming’ disparity in broadband connectivity within Asia-Pacific, UN study finds

BANGKOK, 19th August, 2016 (WAM) - New findings by the economic and social development arm of the United Nations in the Asia-Pacific have revealed that nearly 75 per cent of the region’s broadband capabilities and access are concentrated in countries in East and North-East Asia while the Pacific subregion accounts for a mere 1.93 per cent.

"As a result of this digital divide, millions of people are shut out from transformative digital opportunities in education, health, business and financial services," Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said today in a news release.

She also stressed that broadband connectivity is vital for the digital economy and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region.

The report, State of ICT in Asia and the Pacific 2016: Uncovering the Widening Broadband Divide, also notes that according to 2015 data, the other three subregions: South and South-West Asia, North and Central Asia, and South-East Asia have a combined 23.19 per cent fixed broadband subscriptions in the region, three times less than the East and North-East subregion.

According to the regional form, the findings confirm that gap between advanced and developing countries in fixed broadband access is indeed widening, and unless targeted policy interventions are put in place, the trend will continue to the detriment of future development opportunities.

"In response to the widening gap, ESCAP is promoting the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative, to increase the availability and affordability of broadband Internet across Asia and the Pacific, by strengthening the underlying Internet infrastructure in the region," added Ms. Akhtar.

The report also finds that the ESCAP region has witnessed a dramatic increase from 38.1 per cent of the global fixed broadband subscriptions in 2005 to 52.3 per cent in 2015.

However, the report also shows that less than two per cent of the region’s population has adopted fixed broadband in as many as twenty countries, widening the ‘digital divide’ between high-income and low-income countries at an alarming speed.

It further shows that the penetration of e-commerce is directly linked to access to broadband connectivity.

"[This suggests] that enhancing information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure connectivity would increase business-to-business e-commerce in the region," said ESCAP.

The report also looked at emerging trends in developing online content, differential patterns of mobile broadband expansion and usage, as well as the impact of regulatory quality and investment in broadband adoption.


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