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30 November 2004

Broadband adoption - Hong Kong and Asia Pacific - 1.0

I was trying to put together some sort of unified view of Broadband Internet adoption in Europe, along the same lines of what I just did for the US, when I read Elizabeth Lloyd's enthusiastic article on Hong Kong's Digital Potential and turned my attention to Asia-Pacific instead.

There is a second reason to that. I'm having a lot of trouble with gathering statistics on the European Information Society. Contrary to the US, little of this information is available online. Few reports can be downloaded for free. Most of them have to be ordered, sometimes only by fax; have to be paid for in advance with no preview available. A good example is the process designed to order EITO's European Information Technology Observatory 2004. It is enraging!

Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a total population of 6.8 M people. Nielsen//Netratings indicates that they are 4.9 M to use the Internet, that is almost three out of four Hong Kong residents (72.5%). In the summer 2003, 66% of Hong Kong households had a Broadband connection.

Since 2000, when Internet users were 2.3 M, adoption rate has been very high to 113,7%. Elizabeth Lloyd invokes Hong Kong's early embracing of the Internet in 1991, high-living standards, relatively low access prices, good infrastructure, in terms of both PC penetration and broadband offer. ITU places Hong Kong world second behind the Republic of Korea in Broadband Internet; and world third for second-generation mobile penetration.   

Asia Pacific
Looking at the Asia-Pacific region more broadly, the ITU Asia-pacific Telecommunication Indicators 2004 report indicates a 38% increase in the number of Internet users from 2000 to 2003, for a total Internet population of 255 M. Broadband penetration is also very high, four of the top ten broadband-connected countries are in the region: the Republic of Korea (23.3%), Hong Kong (18%), Taiwan (13.4) and Japan (11.7%). Singapore is very close also with a penetration rate of 10.1%.
Among the factors invoked to explain strong adoption are:

  • a favourable regulatory environment
  • the emergence of regional equipment manufacturers
  • urban demographics

Quoting the lead author of the report, Eric Nelson

The role of governments has also been critical in helping the rollout of broadband. Governments have taken steps such as becoming pre-eminent adopters of the technology themselves, stimulated the development of adequate national backbone networks, created incentives for the establishment of competition, interacted closely with the private sector and given subsidies and other incentives to extend coverage into rural areas to reach new groups.

Nevertheless, let's not forget that within the region very large disparities exist between the developed urban and the less developed areas.


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