Pakistan ranked least internet inclusive country in South Asia: report

Published March 5, 2020
Inclusive Internet Index ranks countries on availability, affordability and people's readiness to use the web.  — AFP/File
Inclusive Internet Index ranks countries on availability, affordability and people's readiness to use the web. — AFP/File

KARACHI: Pakistan has been ranked 76th out of 100 countries on the inclusive internet index 2020 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), falling into the last quartile of the global index overall.

The ‘Inclusive Internet Index’ benchmarks countries on the internet’s availability, affordability, relevance and the readiness of people to use it. The annual report is commissioned by Facebook.

In its fourth year, the index covered 100 countries, representing 91pc of the world’s population and 96pc of global GDP.

On a scale of one (best) to 100 (worst), Pakistan stood at the 76th place out of the total countries surveyed.

According to the EIU, in 2020 Pakistan falls into the last quartile of the global internet index countries overall, and it ranks 24th out of 26 Asian countries.

Commissioned by Facebook, the exercise represents 91pc of the world’s population

“Notable among its weaknesses is by far the largest gender gaps in the index, in both mobile and internet access. Low levels of digital literacy and relatively poor network quality are major impediments to internet inclusion,” the EIU said.

Among the four dimensions considered for the ranking — availability, affordability, relevance and readiness — Pakistan showed poor performance in all areas, the worst being in the availability category.

In terms of availability — a category that examines the quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for access and levels of internet usage — Pakistan ranked 86th out of 100.

The country fared relatively better on affordability (57th) that is described as the cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the internet marketplace.

In terms of readiness — measured on the basis of access to internet, including skills, cultural acceptance, and supporting policy — the country ranked 64th. Finally, Pakistan stood 71st on relevance, which is the existence and extent of local language content and relevant content.

Looking at South Asia, Pakistan ranked the lowest, Bangladesh at 70th, Sri Lanka at 56 and India on the 46th spot.

The first country ranked in this year’s index is Sweden, followed by New Zealand and the United States. Australia and Denmark both ranked fourth, followed by South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Spain.

Among the global worst are Burandi at 100th, Liberia, Madag­ascar, Malawi and Burkina Faso.

3.5bn people remain unconnected

This year’s index is accompanied by the ‘2020 Value of the Internet Survey’, to understand how the internet is used and perceived.

The poll gathered views from 4,953 respondents in 99 countries across Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Facebook, more than half of the world’s population — 4.1 billion is connected to the internet. On the other hand, more than 3.5bn people are still deprived of the ‘opportunities’ brought by the internet.

The social media giant noted that the rate of growth of internet access in low-income countries had slowed significantly.

On average, only 9.9pc of households in low-income countries had access to the internet, compared with 88.5pc in rich countries.

Mobile data game-changer

The report found that mobile data had been a game-changer for lower income groups, but access was still too expensive.

On average across the indexed countries, the cost of a fixed-line broadband connection amounts to 18.6pc of monthly gross national income per-capita — a far cry from the 2pc target for entry-level broadband services set by the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

It also noted that 4G coverage had grown in 54 countries and now covered 31.2pc of low-income and 64.7pc of lower-middle income countries.

High gender gap

Facebook said while progress had been made, women still had less access to the internet than men. Across indexed countries, men were 13pc more likely than women to have access to the internet (down 3pc from last year), and the gender gap was a remarkable 34.5pc in low-income countries.

While the technology industry played a significant role in closing the digital divide, innovation in government policy could have an equally significant impact, Facebook noted.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2020

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