‘Startup Nation’ Falls Two Places to 29th on UN’s Global Digital Index

Amitai Ziv
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Kids using a laptop. More than 90% of 12 to 17-year-olds use the Internet daily.Credit: Dreamstime
Amitai Ziv

Israel has fallen two places, to 29th, on a global index that measures information and communication technology indicators in different countries.

The United Nations International Telecommunication Union’s development index is considered a valuable tool for measuring information society and digital divides. The 2013 report, published this week, ranked Israel two places below its 2012 spot of 27th, even though Israel improved its overall score. Despite that, other nations advanced more quickly – Spain and Bahrain passed Israel in the most recent rankings.

The ranking is comprised of 11 indicators designed to measure citizens’ access, use and skills in information technology fields. These include access to landline and mobile phone technology, Internet bandwidth, and the prevalence of Internet connections and computers in households. It also takes into account more general factors such as adult literacy and schooling.

The ITU ranking includes 166 countries, giving them scores of 0 to 10. All had improved scores over the past year, particularly in terms of indicators such as Internet penetration, infrastructure and skills.

Denmark ranked first, passing former leader South Korea. Other top-ranked countries included Sweden, Iceland, Britain, Norway, Finland and Luxembourg. The lowest ranked country was the Central African Republic.

The average score was 4.77, up from 4.6 in 2012. Israel had a score of 7.29.

A total of 3 billion people worldwide are now connected to the Internet, either via desktop computers or cell phones. In the 2012 ranking, the figure had been 2.7 billion. Yet the majority of people – some 3.4 billion – still aren’t online. Some 90% of these people are in developing nations. There are major differences in access within nations as well, generally splitting along the divide between urban and rural.

One of the main reasons that many people aren’t online is the cost, states the report. In developing nations, an Internet connection may cost as much as 5% of a household’s income, which is too expensive for many people, it adds. It notes that in Europe, some 20% of people who aren’t online say that the main impediment is price.

The only branch of telecommunications in decline is landline telephones, notes the report. Some 1.1 billion people have landlines, the lowest level in 14 years, and down 2% since 2012. Most of the people abandoning their landlines are in developed nations, including Israel.

The number of cell phone lines is still growing, although the report states that this market might be nearly saturated. The number of cellular lines grew only 2.6% since the previous year, the lowest rate of growth in the past decade. The report predicts there will be 6.9 billion cell phone lines in the world by the end of the year.

Mobile Internet access is growing rapidly, notes the report. Access to mobile broadband increased 26% in the developing world and 12% in the developed world between 2012 and 2013. Much of the growth is due to the low price of smartphones.

However, while 84% of people in developed nations have cellular Internet access, only 21% in developing nations do.

The report ranks the cost of access to communication technology based on a basket of services. It ranks Israel 32nd in the world in terms of cost of landline access relative to income, 50th in terms of cost of cellular access – a figure that is likely out of date, given the recent drop in prices here – and 40th in terms of cost of Internet access, another figure that might be slightly out of date.