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

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.


  1. Where’s that damn off switch …
    @Terance “… the net neutrality corporate bashing community”

    Someone should tell Mr. Corcoran that a neutral net where all traffic is treated equally and your competitors data stream is not squeezed to a drip is actually good public policy.

  2. Let’s put the blame for this squarely where it belongs. Canada’s post secondary education system is not creating the talent we need to lead in an ICT intensive world. Until we fix our post-secondary education system so that it is producing more engineers and computing science grads we will continue to be a country of branch offices for foreign multi-nationals.

    Perhaps Mr. Geist could share an update on his progress to reshape his academic industry to better meet the needs of Canadians and improve our rankings in ICT.

  3. Corcoran says “second”, which isn’t wrong, but misleading. Canada places second in the Americas as per page 38 of the report. (Table 2.12: The top five in each region and their ranking in the global IDI).

    STILL 26th overall.

  4. Simple solution….
    Michael, you said “Corcoran tries to cherry pick one indicators..the report shows Canada in 13th spot, not 2nd as he suggests..(page 169 of the report provides the full breakdown showing Canada behind South Korea, the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands among others)”

    I have checked everywhere and I don’t see a page 169 in the report. It would be easy to confirm whether the reporter can’t report or the professor can’t profess, but alas, I can’t find the page that would answer this simple question for me.

  5. Michael Geist says:

    @IP Cop
    Whoops – that was page 169 in my PDF reader. The report page is 154-55. Will fix.

  6. TransNational says:

    Market Problems
    People that leave Canada (especially to the US) and return (at least to Ontario) are regularly appalled by the high prices, low caps, and terrible quality of internet, cellular telephone, and cable television. Unfortunately companies like Rogers get protectionist policies that are supposed to benefit Canadians as a whole, but instead provide terrible services at really high prices, driving talent elsewher. Did you know that in the US, long distance on cellular telephones hasn’t existed for over a decade? In-Country roaming is unheard of, but here companies pretend it is normal. Caps on internet downloading in Canada are laughably low compared to the United States. How is Canada going to attract IT talent and turn the brain drain around when we keep protecting the companies that are hamstringing us? How are we supposed to rank higher on tech lists like the one above when tech-usage is as expensive as it is. We need to demand more of our tech providers or stop protecting them…

  7. We could fix this in two simple ways:

    1) Allow competition from any company from any country. Why the hell is Internet service protected within country boundaries? By its very nature its international.

    2) Force Rogers and Bell to serve rural areas. Part of the lack of Internet usage is cost and availability. Bell especially has been heavily subsidized over the years to wire up the country for telephone, get some of that investment back by forcing Internet connectivity to rural areas. Its sucks for Bell but they’ve had a free ride for years.

    This could happen literally overnight with a new Internet Bill passed by parliament, removal of the CRTC and replaced totally by a new agency.

  8. @TransNational

    With all due respect your assertions are a bunch of hooey! In-country wireless roaming charges were abolished in Canada back in the 1990’s but only recently reintroduced by some of the so-called new entrants.

    Caps from Rogers and Bell are laughably low but the caps offered by Shaw, Telus, Cogeco, Videotron and many others are as good or better than many companies in the US and Europe.

    There is no brain drain going on to the US right now – they are in the midst of a massive recession with record unemployment so foreigners are not able to get jobs in the US without a huge degree of difficulty.

    The problem is that we are not growing enough technology talent in our own country. We should divert academic funding away from parasitic vocations like law and the arts if we want to focus on GDP generating positive opportunities in technology.

    Did you know that a plumber makes twice as much money as an engineer in this country! Why would anyone go into debt and give up 5 years of their life in university if they can make twice as much money gluing pipe together?

  9. @BillG

    Internet is not protected within Canada’s boundaries. There is nothing stopping any company, foreign or domestic, from setting up shop and going into the internet business. There are already hundreds of companies in Canada that are successfully offering internet services to consumers in competition with the big guys. I don’t believe for a second that US or European companies are itching to come to Canada to spend billions to provide internet service to Canadians when they are struggling to keep up with the demands of their own customers in their own backyards.

    Do you really think forcing companies like Rogers and Bell to provide internet service to rural and remote communities is going to improve internet services? They will have to spread their capital much more thinly which would result in them having to sweat their assets longer which in turn means less frequent technology upgrades for their customers. Also, don’t forget that the money for those rural expansions will come from increased fees to their customers in urban settings.

  10. Ummmm
    If we are spending less time staring into computers and cell phones isn’t that a good thing? I like to think we are “behind” because we are all out cycling and canoeing (like I should be right now…)

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  12. I see this problem consistently when you browse the net. Not many countries web sites give you data on other countries that makes YOUR country look 2nd rate. In order to compete, it is essential to know what is going on. Apart from the Philippines, which is appalling at giving out foreign based information ( google The Magna Carta on google philippines and you will see what I mean.) Canada is almost as bad, only saying those things that makes Canada look good – which by the very entity will be it’s demise. Truth is the servant, not deception. P.S. I live in Australia, go to google australia and put something in a search engine, you will get a completely different result, giving both sides and stats which fit the case – not what you may want to hear, but the truth, so you DO know where you stand. Try it.!

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