The International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) latest statistics, published yesterday, reveal rapid growth in Information and Communication technologies (ICT) around the world with mobile technology now acting as a key driver.

ITU expects global mobile subscriptions to reach a whopping 4.6 billion by the end of the year (up from 4.1 billion at the end of 2008), and mobile broadband subscriptions to top 600 million in 2009, having overtaken fixed broadband subscribers in 2008.

The organizations says that, as of 2009, more than a quarter of the world’s population is online and using the Internet. Ever-increasing numbers are opting for high-speed Internet access, with fixed broadband subscriber numbers more than tripling from 150 million in 2004 to an estimated 500 million by the end of 2009.



Mobile technologies are making major inroads toward extending ICTs in developing countries, with a number of nations launching and commercially offering IMT2000/3G networks and services. But ITU’s statistics also highlight important regional discrepancies, with mobile broadband penetration rates still low in many African countries and other developing nations.

Rapid high-speed Internet growth in the developed world contrasts starkly with the state of play in the developing world. In Africa, for example, there is only one fixed broadband subscriber for every 1,000 inhabitants, compared with Europe where there are some 200 subscribers per 1,000 people. The relative price for ICT services (especially broadband) is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels. The report finds that China has the world’s largest fixed broadband market, overtaking its closest rival, the US, at the end of 2008.

ITU estimates show that three quarters of households now own a television set and over a quarter of people globally – some 1.9bn – now have access to a computer at home. This demonstrates the huge market potential in developing countries, where TV penetration is already high, for converged devices, as the mobile, television and Internet worlds collide.

The following chart from International Telecommunications Union shows the penetration per 100 inhabitants of various ICT's.