Mapping the Dimensions and Characteristics of the World’s Technological Communication Capacity During the Period of Digitization (1986-2007/2010)
9th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Meeting, International Telecommunication Union, December 2011
29 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2012 Last revised: 18 Feb 2014
Date Written: December 8, 2011
This article analyzes the nature and characteristics of the world’s technological capacity to communicate information in bits per second during the two decades that were characterized by the digitization of global information flows (1986 to 2007/2010). We distinguish between 12 broadcasting and 31 telecommunication technologies. Television still accounts for 95 % of the effective information flow in 2007. This also implies that most of the world’s technologically mediated information (99 %) is carried through downstream channels, while upstream communication is still marginal (even though rapidly growing). We show that technological progress is the main driver behind the world’s telecommunication capacity and that the contribution of the installation of new infrastructure is becoming less significant to the total growth of global communication. From an international perspective it is striking that the shape and form of the digital divide measured in kbps per capita turns out to be quite different from the evolutionary trajectory of the digital divide when measured in terms of technological devices per capita. While the average inhabitant of the developed world counted with some 40 kbps more than the average member of the information society in developing countries in 2001, this gap grew to over 3 Mbps per capita in 2010. It shows that telecommunication capacity (in kbps) is highly concentrated on the international level. Only eight countries host two-thirds of the installed global telecommunication capacity. All of this shows that it is pivotal to start measuring the world’s communication capacity not merely in terms of the installed number of devices, but also in terms of the transmitted amount of information.
Keywords: digital divide, ICT, information and communication technology, telecommunication, broadcasting, digital, development
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