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Poor but networked:UN says cellphone use surging

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

GENEV\A (AP): More than half the people in the developing world are now cellphone subscribers, a United Nations (UN) report said on Tuesday, highlighting strong global growth in telecommunications.

There were an estimated 4.6 billion mobile-phone subscriptions at the end of last year, compared with about one billion in 2002, the International Telecommunication Union said in a report. In developing nations, 57 per cent of people were signed up.

"The rate of progress remains remarkable," the UN agency said.

The report tallied cellphone, landline telephone and Internet usage in 159 countries from the mainly European nations that are most advanced in information technology to those in sub-Saharan Africa that are the least developed.

Internet use

Internet use has grown, but at a slower pace, the report said.

An estimated 1.7 billion people, or 26 per cent of the world's population, were online last year, up from 11 per cent in 2002.

Still, four out of five people living in poor countries had no access to the Internet, with China alone comprising a third of the people online in the developing world.

"One important challenge in bringing more people online is the limited availability of fixed broadband access," the report said, noting that such services are mainly in the rich world and China.

It said general access to the Internet, telephones and other technologies was becoming cheaper, with the cost dropping in nearly every country last year. The average cost decline was 15 per cent.

In Macao, Hong Kong and Singapore, the prices were lowest compared to people's income. Other countries with relatively low prices include Kuwait, Luxembourg and the United States.

The report also created a table ranking countries on technological advancement and use.

Sweden topped the list, followed by Luxembourg, South Korea, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland.

The United States was 19th. China, 79th, and India, 117th, continued to advance but scored low because many millions of their people still were without phone or Internet access.