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International Telecommunication Union

International Telecommunication Union

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10/21/2011

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As this report has shown, Korea is well
advanced in Information and
Communication Technology (ICT). It
leads the world in broadband Internet
access, is ranked fifth in overall access
to the Internet and was one of the
first countries to launch a third
generation mobile network. It has
achieved universal access with
practically every household not only
having telephone service but more
than half with a broadband service. It
has one of the worlds leading ICT
manufacturing sectors, a remarkable
achievement for a nation still officially
classified as developing. Koreans are
well educated and rank high in literacy
and overall educational achievement.
Yet, on most international ICT and
competitiveness rankings, Korea falls
in the middle range (see Table 5.1).
Why the inconsistency?

For one thing, the rankings are often
based on the same set of variables.
The similarity of where Korea shows
up, generally in the high 60 percentile,
reinforces this assumption. Second,
quantity is favoured over quality. The
rankings are typically designed to
favour a common denominator of
widely available indicators, rate high
per capita values without adjusting for
methodological discrepancies and do
not adjust for qualitative differences.
For example, many European nations
artificially inflate the number of main
telephone lines—a common indicator
in all of the indexes—by including
Integrated Services Digital Network
(ISDN) channels. Korea does not. So
if the number of physical telephone
lines were compared, Korea would
rank much higher (see Figure 5.2, top
left). A similar situation exists for

65

5. Conclusion

mobile cellular subscribers where
many nations have a high portion of
prepaid cards that are included in the
figures but which are not all used.
Korea has few mobile prepaid
subscribers and consequently has a
more realistic figure for mobile
penetration (see Figure 5.2, top right).

Another methodological weakness is
that many surveys use the number of
Internet hosts per capita to rank
Internet intensity. This is misleading
since host computers can be located
anywhere and not necessarily in the
country of their domain name.
Furthermore, all three letter generic
hosts (e.g., .COM) are attributed to
the United States even though many
other countries use these domain
names. On a per capita basis, the
number of Internet host computers in
Korea—based only on the .KR domain
name—is relatively low, affecting its
ranking. On the other hand, Korea’s
high level of Internet and broadband
penetration is rarely reflected in the
standings (see Figure 5.2, bottom left).

Global rankings also appear to be
biased in favour of western theoretical
perceptions of competitiveness rather
than actual achievement. In general,
few Asian nations rank in the top ten.
Hypothetical assumptions appear to
carry more weight with the rankings

more focused on the means rather
than the ends. For example, a nation
that supposedly allows a greater
degree of competition than another
would be ranked higher even though
the latter might have a far greater
level of infrastructure. Another
shortcoming is that the rankings tend
to weight per capita income highly. In
the case of Korea, it is doing
exceedingly well in ICT despite a
relatively low per capita income. If
anything, Korea’s ranking should be
raised because of this fact. In terms
of purchasing power parity, Korea’s
per capita income is twice that of the
conventional measurement (see
Figure 5.2, bottom right).

The case of Korea suggests that these
scorecards are not very useful in
accurately

measuring

ICT
achievement. In any case, in the
framework used by the ITU to assess
a nation’s state of e-readiness, Korea
obtains the highest score of any of the
fifteen countries studied (for
comparison, see: www.itu.int/ict/cs)

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