Call to arms for governments worldwide to improve connectivity

Five billion people will be connected by 2015

A groundbreaking study ranking governments worldwide on their use of communications technology and infrastructure is being used as proof that there is still a lot of work to do before even well connected countries realize the full economic benefits of ICT.

Dubbed the Connectivity Scorecard, the study found countries are not exploiting communications technologies to their fullest potential and in many cases policy and regulatory activity designed to promote connectivity is not having the impact intended.

The study's author, Professor Leonard Waverman of the London Business School, said the study is a call to arms for government and businesses.

"Countries could add hundreds of billions of dollars in economic benefit by rethinking how they measure and enable connectivity," he said.

The scorecard ranks the United States first in a group of 16 innovation driven economies with Australia coming in at number seven ahead of Germany, France and Korea, but behind Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland and the UK.

It measures the extent to which governments, businesses and consumers make use of connectivity technologies - copper wires, fibre-optic lines, mobile phones and PC's that underpin today's information economy - to enhance social and economic prosperity.

Waverman said what this study demonstrates is that not even the world's richest countries can afford to become complacent about their current telecom and computing profile.

"Every nation has substantial work to do before achieving an ideal score; countries need to consider infrastructure and usage as a combined yardstick," he said.

Sponsored by Nokia Siemens Networks, the study rated Russia as number one when it came to efficiency and resource driven economies.

Nokia's head of global initiatives, Ilkka Lakaniemi, said each country has different "to do" lists to maximise connectivity gains.

For example, he said Korea needs to spend more on IP applications while India and Nigeria have to lift literacy measures.

"In a period of great economic uncertainty there are great benefits to be gained from the effective use of communications infrastructure," he said.

"As we move toward the vision of five billion people connected by 2015, police makers and business leaders must simultaneously encourage the deployment of infrastructure and invest in complementary assets."

The study, which was conducted with the support of economic consulting firm LECG, points out that even the most advanced countries today have achieved only a first generation of connectivity.

Australian Telecommunications User Group (ATUG) managing director, Rosemary Sinclair, said the problem in Australia is access to affordable, advanced communications services anywhere including rural areas.

"End users see technologies as fit for purpose tools and are keen to have access to fibre, advanced copper services, mobile broadband, fixed wireless broadband, satellite, broadband over powerline - any of the above because in real life situations all of these technologies can be fit for purpose," she said.

Proving that the Australian market isn't anywhere near as competitive as it could be,Telecommunications analyst, Paul Budde, said Telstra maintained its stranglehold on the wholesale market with revenues of just under $3 billion in 2007, which constitutes more than 70 per cent of the $4.2 billion wholesale market.

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Sandra Rossi

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