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ASEAN ANALYSIS  3 September 2010

The Asean broadband divide

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   3 September 2010

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Ahead of an upcoming conference, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has issued its annual report on the penetration of broadband Internet service throughout the planet, highlighting the divide between developed and undeveloped countries .

The only Asean mention in the general news release was a negative: Myanmar with .03 broadband subscriptions per 100 of its inhabitants comes in dead last in the world. Not a surprise, as the ruling military junta seeks to insulate its people from the rest of mankind.

On the same scale, the number of broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, here’s how the remaining Asean members shaped up in 2009.

Singapore 23.71

Malaysia 6.09

Brunei 5.1

Vietnam 3.01

Philippines 1.87

Thailand 1.47

Indonesia .74

Cambodia .2

Laos .13

Singapore’s total places it in the 23rd position in the world’s ratings. Two of the smaller population Asean countries, progressive Brunei and Malaysia, come after Singapore. The position of Vietnam in fourth came as a surprise to this writer.

Thailand’s position is a testament to its inability to develop a sound telecommunications legal and regulatory framework, a problem persisting into this year as well as the lack of Internet penetration in areas outside of Bangkok.

The stretched out country of Indonesia with about 30,000 islands represents a real telecom problem, while the positions of Laos and Cambodia are a testament to the lack of development in those countries.

Perhaps these results will spur Asean countries to do much better in the near future. Knowledge is power and bringing the Internet to the rural populations of countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, would do much to foster social cohesion and prosperity in those countries.

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