Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Measuring the Information Society: Korea's Broadband Network Ranks Number 1

A headline in the People's Daily Online caught my attention today. It read "South Korea's Broadband Network Most Developed." As with media coverage elsewhere in the world, this headline derived from a report issued by the International Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, an IT think-tank established in the United States in 2006. The mission of this think tank is to ". . . formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring American prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues."
In its report "Explaining International Broadband Leadership," ITIF released rankings that are based on three measures: broadband penetration, speed and price. This ranking places Korea solidly in first place, with Japan coming in second, and the United States ranking 12th. More interesting than the rankings per se is the analysis in the longer report of why countries rank as they do. For example, the report notes that because " . . . over 50 percent of South Koreans live in large, multitenant apartment buildings makes it significantly cheaper on a per-subscriber basis to roll out fast broadband there compared to the United States, where many people live in single-family suburban homes." With reference to Korea and the other leading broadband nations, the report notes that leadership, incentives, competition and demand-side policies are all important.

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