Which Countries Really Lead in Internet Access?

At the Tau Institute, we develop relative, “pound-for-pound” rankings that can uncover diamonds in the rough and more important, show well a nation is doing with respect to its available resources. We integrate several technology and social factors into our algorithms — on the one hand including average bandwidth, access to broadband, number of dataservers, on the other hand including income disparity, perception of corruption, human development, and the local cost of living.

We’ve ranked 102 nations, and include an overall ranking as well as regional rankings and rankings by income tier. We’ve also developed “raw” rankings, which emphasize technology parameters more than the socio-economic ones, and therefore can be used to show a country’s raw potential.

I’ll list our current leaders in several categories in an upcoming article. For now, I’d like to focus on an interesting relationship between Internet access, broadband access, and income.

I noted previously that Uganda is emerging on our charts because a relatively high number of its people have Internet access, given its low per capita income. Developing this stat goes to the heart of what we’re doing, as we seek to identify those countries that are doing the best with what they have.

A cursory review of data from the International Telecommunications Union shows the usual suspects as the world’s leaders in Internet access: Northern and Western Europe, South Korea, Canada and the US. However, we would like to know who leads the world on a relative basis, ie, who is doing the most with the resources they have? So, if we integrate the percentage of Internet access directly into the per capita income among the 102 countries that we survey, we find a Top 15 as follows:

1. Kenya
2. Uganda
3. Vietnam
4. Tanzania
5. Nigeria
6. Morocco
7. Senegal
8. Sudan
9. Egypt
10. Bolivia
11. Philippines
12. Yemen
13, Tunisia
14. Ghana
15. Malawi

This view may serve of some value to us in developing our “raw” algorithms. African nations dominate, and it shows how there are flickers of potential within the lower-income nations of the world.

To refine it a bit, we can then integrate the percentage of Internet access into fractional exponents (square roots and beyond) to dampen the influence of lower income on Internet access. We also measure our iterative results against a nirvanic “Perfect Land,” a statistical nation we’ve created that has optimal performance in every category we examine. In doing so, and in feathering in a 10% logarithmic adjustment, we come up with a Top 25 of:

1. Morocco
2. South Korea
3. Latvia
4. Estonia
5. Slovakia
6. Croatia
7. New Zealand
8. Malaysia
9. Netherlands
10. Czech Republic
11. Lithuania
12. Poland
13. Finland
14. Taiwan
15. Vietnam
16. Sweden
17. UK
18. Slovenia
19. Germany
20. Denmark
21. Bulgaria
22. Canada
23. Hungary
24. Hong Kong
25. Kenya

Again, this applies only to a ratio of percentage of population with Internet access versus per capita income. It is not in itself one of our official rankings. Rather, it is just one little glimpse of how we conduct our overall methodology. And it provides a nice relative look that doesn’t simply parrot a correlation between wealth and connectivity.

It also provides a flavor of how we balance various factors to create looks that don’t follow traditional methods, which trend heavily toward simply having wealthy nations on top, developing nations on the bottom. We are continuously fine-tuning each of our formulas and algorithms, and will be fine-tuning this view as well.

In any case, notably missing from this list are the United States (which we believe to be a consistent underperformer in its deployment of IT infrastructure, given its resources), as well as all of the BRICs nations (which we also find to be underperformers in all of our rankings).

Later, I’ll address broadband connectivity (not just overall Internet access), as well as mobile access…after I let my floating-point core recover for awhile.

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