ITU: Australia 19th in global ICT rankings

People in Slovenia have the same access to technology as people in New Zealand and France. That's one of the surprising results of a global index of information and communication technology (ICT) access put together by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva.

The Digital Access Index, released Wednesday, is part of the 2003 edition of the ITU's World Telecommunication Development Report. It looks at the infrastructure available in countries, but also at affordability of technology and education levels, the quality of ICT services available and at Internet usage, the ITU said.

The report classifies countries into four digital access categories: high, upper, medium and low. Countries are given an index number based on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 meaning the highest access.

In the high category, the top nine countries are Asian and European. The leaders in the high category are Sweden with a score of 0.85, Denmark with 0.83 and Iceland and the Republic of Korea with 0.82.

The U.K., with a 0.77 score, came in just under Canada and the U.S., which both scored 0.78. France, Slovenia, Italy and New Zealand all received a score of 0.72.

Australia came in 19th on the rankings chat alongside Belgium, receiving a score of 0.74. Other countries ahead of Australia in the rankings included Switzerland (0.76), Japan (0.75), Singapore (0.75) and Austria and Luxembourg, both with a score of 0.75.

Australia was also ranked second in the top five list for countries which has dropped in the ITU’s ICT rankings between 1998 and 2002, falling eight places (from 11th). New Zealand took out the top spot, falling from 12th to 21st over the four-year period.

The upper category is mainly made up of countries from Central and Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. Government policies have given these countries an impressive level of ICT access, the ITU said. Ireland leads this category with 0.69, followed by Cyprus with 0.68 and Estonia, Spain and Malta each with 0.67.

The growth of ICT access in Asia suggests that English is no longer a decisive factor in quick technology adoption, as more content is made available in other languages, the report said. Australia was ranked sixth for its ICT access its the Asia-Pacific region.

Niger languishes at the bottom of the low access index, with a score of 0.04.

- Nadia Cameron contributed to this report.

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