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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Global net use makes rapid rise
Speedometer, BBC
E-readiness is not just about speed of connection
The net is helping to close the digital divide between industrialised nations, suggests a report.

The annual e-readiness rankings by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows Asian and African nations catching up with big net users such as Denmark.

The report says this is partly due to broadband which is now cheap and affordable in almost every nation.

But it warns that much hard work remains to be done to get the best out of the net for citizens and companies.

Net threat

The annual EIU report on e-readiness gauges how easy the net is to use in almost 70 nations.

It takes into account how easy and affordable citizens find it to get online as well as the legal and policy issues surrounding net use.

"Increasingly," said the report, "it is about how people and companies consume digital goods and services."

The 2007 report shows that e-readiness rose globally but some nations such as Singapore and Hong Kong have climbed in the rankings at the expense of others.

The rise in rankings of many Asian and African nations was due to government commitment to making it easier to get online via dial-up or broadband.

For instance Nigeria and South Africa were singled out for praise in the report. Nigeria won support for its digital development strategy and South Africa for the efforts it made to boost its basic net infrastructure.

1) Denmark
=2) US
=2) Sweden
4) Hong Kong
5) Switzerland
6) Singapore
7) UK
8) Netherlands
9) Australia
10) Finland
11) Austria
12) Norway
13) Canada
14) New Zealand
15) Bermuda
16) South Korea
17) Taiwan
18) Japan
19) Germany
20) Belgium
The change was also affected by broader policy and educational initiatives backed by the governments in these nations.

The EIU report noted that the basic technologies that people use to go online were now becoming common worldwide. Broadband, in particular, was now affordable almost everywhere.

In North America broadband costs about 1% of monthly incomes and even in the regions where it is the most expensive it only costs 10% of income.

The gap was also narrowed by a change in the way that the EIU calculates e-readiness.

No longer was it just about basic measures of telephones or net accounts, said the report. Instead it was about what type of connections are available as well as government commitment to using the net and putting in place policies that make it worthwhile using it.

This meant that the e-readiness scores of almost all the nations in the top sections of the rankings declined - although nine of the top ten most e-ready nations maintained their position in this group. The UK slipped to 7th in the rankings.

It also meant, said the report, that it was getting harder to get the most out of the net as users became more sophisticated.

"Technology leadership in the world is becoming a fast-moving target," said Robin Bew, editorial director of the EIU.

"Those at the top of today's league table cannot be complacent - changing technologies, and attitudes to technology usage, mean that hard-won advantages can be quickly eroded by nimble-footed rivals."

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