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Monday, 04 November 2013

Digital divide should be redefined to focus on usage, according to EIU

Access to the Internet has greatly expanded and the focus should now be on the willingness and ability of citizens to use it for productive purposes, according to a new report published today, Redefining the digital divide, by the Economist Intelligence Unit.


Current strategies for overcoming the digital divide do not necessarily address the underlying gaps such as affordability, usage and relevance of content, with country approaches varying significantly in terms of leadership, funding and technologies. The report, commissioned by Huawei, compares the strategies of Australia, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US. It includes a survey of 218 telecommunications industry executives and government policymakers.


The report’s key findings include:


Affordability remains a key obstacle to ICT adoption.

  • 63% of survey respondents cite affordability as the most serious contributor to the digital divide, while 56% cite the lack of ability/skills to use ICT (information and communications technology).
  • Research from France and the US shows that broadband penetration levels fall by as much as half among lower income populations.


The urban/rural divide is a key concern, particularly the need for greater speeds outside major urban areas.

  • Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents say there is an urban/rural digital divide in their country.
  • In the US, about 14.5m of the 19m people that lack broadband access are in rural areas.


Policymakers and telecommunications executives are sharply divided on the key obstacles to solving the divide.

  • Policymakers, obviously concerned with social inclusion, are twice as likely as telecoms executives to cite the lack of ability/skills to use ICT as the primary contributor to the digital divide today.
  • Telecoms executives, more concerned with reaching new customers and selling higher-end services, are twice as likely as policymakers to view the urban/rural divide and speed as major hurdles.


Funding is the biggest area of disagreement between the industry and policymakers.

  • The use of universal service funds and investment models for less profitable urban and rural areas are cited as key obstacles to further development.
  • Funding schemes vary greatly between countries—from heavy government-led investment in Australia to a laissez-faire approach in the US. It is too early to tell which will deliver the greatest common good.


Competition is crucial but regulation is equally important.

  • A majority of survey respondents say regulation is a benefit rather than a burden in creating greater access to the Internet.
  • In France, which has a strong regulatory regime, 86% of households have a choice of at least two providers.
  • In the US, by contrast, a weak regulatory environment has led to agreements between companies not to enter each others’ territories, and only 14% of households have a choice of cable operator.



Redefining the digital divide  is available free of charge at:



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About the Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 195 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. More information is available at www.eiu.com or follow us on www.twitter.com/theeiu


The EIU is headquartered in London, UK, with offices in more than 40 cities and a network of some 650 country experts and analysts worldwide. It operates independently as the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.


About Huawei
Huawei is a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider. Through our dedication to customer-centric innovation and strong partnerships, we have established end-to-end advantages in telecom networks, devices and cloud computing. We are committed to creating maximum value for telecom operators, enterprises and consumers by providing competitive solutions and services. Our products and solutions have been deployed in over 140 countries, serving more than one-third of the world’s population. For more information, visit Huawei online: www.huawei.com

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