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The world's poor driving mobile phone growth

SIX in ten people around the world now have cell phone subscriptions, signaling that mobile phones are the communications technology of choice, particularly in poor countries, according to a UN report published yesterday.

By the end of last year there were an estimated 4.1 billion subscriptions globally, compared with about 1 billion in 2002, the International Telecommunication Union said.

Fixed line subscriptions increased at a much slower pace, from about 1 billion to 1.27 billion over the same period.

"There has been a clear shift to mobile cellular telephony," the agency said, noting that developing countries now account for about two-thirds of cell phones in use.

In 2002, less than half of mobile subscriptions globally were in the developing world, it said.

Internet use more than doubled. An estimated 23 percent of people on the planet used the Internet last year, up from 11 percent in 2002.

Poor countries still lag far behind on Internet access, with only 1 in 20 people in Africa going online in 2007 - the most recent year for which firm figures were available.

Fixed broadband increased to almost 20 percent in rich countries, while globally just over 1 in 20 had access to fast Internet connections at home.

The Geneva-based agency recorded the sharpest rise in mobile broadband subscriptions. The technology, which allows users to access the Web at high speed with mobile devices, was available to 3 percent of people worldwide, increasing to 14 percent in developed countries.

The report also ranked countries according to how advanced their use of information and communications technology is. Sweden came first, followed by South Korea despite its relatively low per capita income.

Denmark came third, ahead of the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway.


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