Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Nov 21, 2003
Info-Tech - Software
`Tech power' India gets poor billing Just four ranks away from ITU's `Low Access' category
New Delhi , Nov 20
IT is not just the broad economic parameters that China is racing ahead of India, but even in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector, which is believed to be the traditional stronghold of the country.
The digital access index (DAI) developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to measure access to ICT in 178 countries places India at a rank of 119 as against China's 84. Even Philippines, which is turning out to be big competitor in the IT enabled services has a better rank of 99. Sri Lanka with a rank of 105 is also ahead of India, which is in the company of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Morocco, Cuba and Mongolia.
The ITU has classified countries into four digital access categories: high, upper, medium and low.
There are 25 countries where the population has a high degree of access to ICT, 40 countries in the upper category, 58 countries in the medium category and 55 in the low category.
India falls in the medium category and is just four ranks away from slipping into the low category.
The top five countries in terms of ICT access are Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, South Korea and Norway.
Canada stands 10th, followed by the US (11), the UK (12), Singapore (14) and Japan (15), UAE (34), Malaysia (46), Russia (64) and China (84).
The DAI forms part of the ITU's upcoming 2003 edition of the World Telecommunication Development Report (WTDR), published to coincide with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
It is widely recognised as a vital reference for Governments, international development agencies, NGOs and the private sector to assess national conditions in ICT.
To measure the overall ability of individuals to access and use ICT, the ITU study has gone beyond the organisation's traditional focus on telecommunication infrastructure, such as mobile phones and fixed telephone lines.
The DAI measures the overall ability of individuals in a country to access and use ICT. It combines eight variables, covering five areas, to provide an overall country score.
The areas are availability of infrastructure, affordability of access, educational level, quality of ICT services, and Internet usage.
Among the indicators that have been used to compile the index are fixed telephone and mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants, Internet access tariffs, adult literacy, per capita international Internet bandwidth (bits), broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants and Internet users per 100 inhabitants.
"The results of the index point to potential stumbling blocks in ICT adoption and can help countries identify their relative strengths and weaknesses," the ITU said.
"The DAI overcomes other limitations of other ICT indices. Besides its global scope, its carefully chosen variables guarantee transparency. The index concentrates on factors that have an immediate impact on determining an individual's potential to access ICT. It deliberately omits variables subject to qualitative judgment such as the regulatory environment."
The ITU also said that many countries have used ICT as a development enabler and Government policies have helped them reach an impressive level of access.
The DAI will, therefore, be a useful tool for tracking the future advancement of ambitious emerging economies.
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