The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has ranked Australia 14th - two spots behind neighbouring New Zealand - in a recent study of ICT competitiveness with a strong focus on broadband.
As an agency of the United Nations (UN), the ITU has released its Measuring the Information Society 2011 report which pits the ICT economy of 152 countries against each other.
Ranking is based on the agency's global ICT Development Index (IDI) which measures the evolution of ICT development, progress of ICT development, the digital divide and development potential of each country.
Broadband is a huge part of the IDI as it counts indicators such as mobile cellular subscriptions, households with a computer, fixed and mobile broadband Internet subscriptions. The report compares 2010 and 2008 scores.
South Korea fared best with a global IDI of 8.40. It was also the best rated country in 2008 with an IDI of 7.80. Sweden came in second but Iceland jumped four spots from 2008 to nab third place in the new report.
With an IDI of 7.43, New Zealand also jumped four places, surging ahead of Australia at 12th spot.
Australia, at 14th, had a global IDI of 7.36.
The ITU noted the New Zealand Government investment into upgrading its broadband infrastructure to increase the country’s global competitiveness as a major component of its rankings boost.
New Zealand is spending around $NZ1.5 billion on a mix of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and existing copper communications infrastructure as well as $NZ300 million on improving rural broadband.
Australia is spending $36 billion on a predominantly FTTH National Broadband Network (NBN).
The ITU report made no mention of Australia’s NBN.
In August, Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, lauded New Zealand’s broadband plans compared to Australia’s NBN.
Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, promptly shot down the comparison, noting New Zealand’s broadband will offer much slower download speeds compared to Australia’s.
Australia also ranked lower overall in the IDI sub-categories which includes ICT access, use and skills compared to New Zealand.
Another topic which the Measuring the Information Society 2011 report looked into was ICT pricing.
The ICT Price Basket (IPB) index, which compares prices of fixed-telephony, mobile-cellular telephony and fixed-broadband Internet services to determine affordability of ICT in each of the 165 countries measured.
Australia ranked 23rd in terms of IPB while New Zealand trailed behind at 49th. Monaco took first spot in this category.
The ICT price basket is a composite basket includes three tariff sets, referred to as sub-baskets: fixed-telephony, mobile-cellular telephony and fixed-broadband Internet services.
Globally, ICT prices have fallen steadily particularly in terms of fixed-broadband prices which was slashed by half over the past two years.
But the ITU still saw broadband as too expensive in many developing countries.
“Countries without affordable broadband access run the risk of falling behind in the global information society and I hope this report will prompt policy makers to look into ways of lowering ICT prices,” ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) director, Brahima Sanou, said in a statement.