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Moving beyond the aggregate benchmarks, many additional insights can be gained from the examination of the most recent data for specific ICTs and individual countries.
Even in 2005, several countries, including some in the Asia Pacific region, continue to have precious little fixed-line infrastructure. The penetration of wireline telephones, as measured by the main lines-per-100-inhabitants indicator, barely registers in Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. Moreover, it continues to be at very low levels in Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka (Table 1). In all, 17 of the 28 economies examined here have penetration rates below the global average.
Similar findings hold true for PCs and Internet use, which are still at an embryonic stage in most countries of the region. The availability of bandwidth is also quite limited. Thus, it is not surprising that broadband Internet use is a rarity. At the same time, the 10 countries that exceed the global average in PCs and Internet use do so by wide margins. South Korea and Hong Kong, in particular, are among the world leaders in broadband, highlighting once again the huge developmental disparities in the region.
In a few countries, even the diffusion of TVs among households is quite low, both by regional and global standards. (On average, about two in three households in the world have a TV set.) Myanmar and Afghanistan have particularly low TV penetrations among households, at 3 per cent and 6.3 per cent, respectively, while Nepal fares only somewhat better at 13.2 per cent. In Bangladesh, fewer than one in four households have a TV, while the corresponding figure in India and Sri Lanka is less than one TV in three households.
The situation is comparatively much better and more promising when it comes to cellphones. It is by now well documented that the cellphone represents the bright spot in the
ICTs-for-development scene. It has made the most inroads among poor populations compared to other ICTs and its penetration has surpassed the availability of fixed telephone lines in most countries. Moreover, this is true both among developed and developing economies, as can be observed in the 2005 data contained in Table 1, with the exception of Iran, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam. In some developing countries in particular, cellphones are the only significant telephony option (Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos), while in others they exceed fixed-lines by a sizeable factor.1 This is the case in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, and perhaps nowhere more dramatic than in the Philippines. However, in Myanmar and Nepal, even the cellphone still did not amount to much in 2005 (at a time when in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore there were more cellphones than people).