ITU Report Says Canada Slipped to 26th Worldwide in ICT Development Index

Friday September 16, 2011
The International Telecommunications Union yesterday released its Measuring the Information Society 2011 report, which benchmarks information society developments worldwide.  The centrepiece of the report is the ICT Development Index, which tracks 11 different indicators focused on access, use, and skills (the eleven indicators are: fixed telephone line subscriptions, mobile subscriptions, international Internet bandwidth, households with a computer, households with Internet access, percentage of individuals using the Internet, broadband subscriptions, mobile broadband subscriptions, adult literacy, secondary and tertiary enrolment). Among the indicators, skills are worth 20 percent, while access and use count for 40 percent each. The news for Canada was not good as we fell from 20th in 2008 (the last time the ITU issued its report) to 26th worldwide today. Topping the list was South Korea, but Canada finds itself behind much of Europe, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and several other Asian countries. 

While the National Post's Terence Corcoran tries to cherry pick  one indicator - Internet use - to argue that the report shows Canada as a leader, he actually gets it wrong as the report shows Canada in 13th spot, not 2nd as he suggests (pages 154-55 of the report provides the full breakdown showing Canada behind South Korea, the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands among others). Canada's rank on the access and use indicators:

Indicator
Canada's Rank
Percentage of individuals using the Internet
13th
Fixed broadband Internet subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
14th
Active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
57th
Fixed telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
12th
Mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
111th
International Internet bandwidth Bit/s per Internet user
24th
Percentage of households with computer
13th
Percentage of households with Internet
17th

It is hard to see how anyone can look at these results and conclude that Canada is a leader in ICT development. Canada ranks outside the top ten in every indicator and an incredible 111th on mobile subscriptions and 57th on mobile broadband. The reality is that virtually every neutral survey or study over the past several years has had other countries leapfrogging ahead of Canada as we reap the results of a missing national digital strategy, restrictions on foreign investment, and ongoing competitive concerns.