Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Korea is Not the "Most Wired" Country in the World

One might be forgiven for believing that Korea is the most wired nation on earth. The most heavily networked nation, very possibly, but not the most wired. This is so for several obvious reasons.
  • Merriam Webster online and most other dictionaries define wire as having a metallic component, like the copper phone wires that if counted or weighed would make the US the world's most "wired" country.
  • Even if the newer fiber optic cables are counted as "wires" designation of the most wired nation in the world ignores the broad trend in recent years toward "cutting the cord," i.e. the introduction of mobile networks. South Korea is a world leader in mobile technology deployment and use.
  • "most wired" is a vague term that makes a nice headline, but in fact is used by different sources in different ways to confuse matters. Anyone who doubts this should do a quick Google search on "most wired countries" (without the quotes). This will show that among the measures of being "wired" are: (1) the information society index, IDC's annual study which includes fifteen variables, (2) broadband users, use per capita, or hours of use per week, (3) polling data about use in the last month, (4) broadband access as in percentage of households connected, (5) the digital access index or digital opportunity index (DOI) and so forth.

Although the "wired" terminology has a comforting, anachronistic feel to it, we probably need to get beyond it to be clear about measures of broadband access or infrastructure versus usage. These two types of measures, along with others such as education, go into indices such as the Digital Opportunity Index. Such measures are going to be important to track various "digital divides" and progress in bridging them.

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