Countries with a coordinated national strategy for rolling out broadband are making significantly faster progress than those taking a more laissez-faire approach to broadband development, according to a new report.
The research, conducted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), together with the Broadband Commission for Digital Development and Cisco, indicates that countries with a national broadband plan have fixed broadband penetration some 8.7 percent higher on average than countries without plans.
Once the potential impact of factors like higher average income per capita, market concentration and urbanisation are discounted, countries with plans benefit from fixed broadband penetration on average 2.5 percent higher than countries without plans, according to the report.
In mobile, the impact is almost as significant. Countries with national broadband plans have mobile broadband penetration some 7.4 percent higher on average than countries without plans.
The report also acknowledges the role of market competition in boosting uptake. Broadband penetration in competitive markets is 1.4 percent higher on average for fixed broadband and up to 26.5 percent higher on average for mobile broadband.
"The Broadband Commission's message about the power of broadband to transform each and every economic sector is now gaining global traction," said ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Toure.
"Governments are realising that broadband networks are not just vital to national competitiveness, but to the delivery of education, healthcare, public utilities like energy and water, environmental management, and a whole host of government services.
"Broadband is the key enabler not just of human interaction, but of the machine-to-machine communications systems that will underpin tomorrow's world."
The report states that there are currently 134 national broadband plans in force. Plans may take the form of legislation, policy frameworks, government strategy or regulations, but all share a common emphasis on the vital role of broadband in underpinning national competitiveness.
The full economic and social benefits are most likely to be realised where there is strong partnership between government and industry, and where governments engage in a consultative, participatory approach to policy in conjunction with key stakeholders, the report says.
"The role of policy is to set a vision for broadband development and ensure a level playing field which then allows for the best ideas to prosper," said Dr Robert Pepper, Vice President of Global Technology Policy for Cisco.
Last week the UK government announced plans to invest £250 million to extend superfast broadband provision from current coverage plans, in the hope that 95 per cent of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by 2017.