Broadband services

Digital Divide Debate Must Move On, Finds EIU

LONDON -- Access to the Internet has greatly expanded and the focus should now be on the willingness and ability of citizens to use it for productive purposes, according to a new report published today, Redefining the digital divide, by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Current strategies for overcoming the digital divide do not necessarily address the underlying gaps such as affordability, usage and relevance of content, with country approaches varying significantly in terms of leadership, funding and technologies. The report, commissioned by Huawei, compares the strategies of Australia, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US. It includes a survey of 218 telecommunications industry executives and government policymakers.

The report’s key findings include:

Affordability remains a key obstacle to ICT adoption.

  • 63% of survey respondents cite affordability as the most serious contributor to the digital divide, while 56% cite the lack of ability/skills to use ICT (information and communications technology).
  • Research from France and the US shows that broadband penetration levels fall by as much as half among lower income populations.

    The urban/rural divide is a key concern, particularly the need for greater speeds outside major urban areas.

  • Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents say there is an urban/rural digital divide in their country.
  • In the US, about 14.5m of the 19m people that lack broadband access are in rural areas.

    Policymakers and telecommunications executives are sharply divided on the key obstacles to solving the divide.

  • Policymakers, obviously concerned with social inclusion, are twice as likely as telecoms executives to cite the lack of ability/skills to use ICT as the primary contributor to the digital divide today.
  • Telecoms executives, more concerned with reaching new customers and selling higher-end services, are twice as likely as policymakers to view the urban/rural divide and speed as major hurdles.

    Funding is the biggest area of disagreement between the industry and policymakers.

  • The use of universal service funds and investment models for less profitable urban and rural areas are cited as key obstacles to further development.
  • Funding schemes vary greatly between countries—from heavy government-led investment in Australia to a laissez-faire approach in the US. It is too early to tell which will deliver the greatest common good.

    Competition is crucial but regulation is equally important.

  • A majority of survey respondents say regulation is a benefit rather than a burden in creating greater access to the Internet.
  • In France, which has a strong regulatory regime, 86% of households have a choice of at least two providers.
  • In the US, by contrast, a weak regulatory environment has led to agreements between companies not to enter each others’ territories, and only 14% of households have a choice of cable operator.

    The Economist Intelligence Unit Ltd.

  • Somerset 11/4/2013 | 5:21:36 PM
    Re: UK Whoever they like that can provide connectivity.  Over 120 companies in the UK have code powers to install telecomms infrastructure.
    cyberdoyle 11/4/2013 | 5:12:42 PM
    Re: UK And LLU providers buy from who Peter?
    Somerset 11/4/2013 | 4:58:42 PM
    UK Cyberdoyle is wrong on many points again.

    Over 50% of the UK has a choice of infrastructure provider and LLU means they do not use BT Wholesale.

    'Copper patchups' presumably refers to FTTC which gives significant speed increases for many.  Innivation happens in many ways in many places.

    Pity comments cannot be based on true facts...
    cyberdoyle 11/4/2013 | 4:28:33 PM
    funding In the UK funding is the pits. The real broadband projects can't get any, and its just handed over to the incumbent to waste on copper patch ups. The rural people are being shafted and left with bonded copper pairs or resorting to expensive satellites. It is a farce. The major telco convinces government that the people have 'choice' but they don't really, because all the ISPs buy off BT. You get what you pay for, cheap isps have rubbish service, more expensive business connections do try a bit harder, but all are throttled and capped because the paymaster (bt wholesale) is building profits for their overlord (bt openreach) and in truth its just a monopoly. They don't have to have agreements not to invade territory cos they own the lot. The UK is being held to ransom, innovation is non existent and a massive digital divide is opening up - leaving us out of the digital revolution in the pursuit of short term profits for an obsolete phone network.

    Bring on the fibre. Moral and optic.
    Sign In