Scandinavian countries are streets ahead when it comes to accessing computers, mobile phones and the internet, a new study has found.

Leidig Teeuw map of global data poverty

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth have produced the first global map of data poverty showing where in the world people have the best and worst access to information technologies.

Iceland, Norway and Finland top the list of 189 countries which feature on the map. The United Kingdom is ranked 17, ahead of Germany, Japan and Russia. While Yemen, Myanmar and Burkina Faso are at the bottom of the list.

In order to create the map the researchers considered internet speed, access to hardware, mobile-device availability, internet usage and education.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Teeuw, from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: “Since the 1990s there has been concern about the ‘digital divide’ between the data-rich and data-poor – those who have and those who don’t have – access to computers, the internet and other technologies.

“Information technologies can play a key role in sustainable development, improving our quality of life without damaging the quality of life of future generations, and reducing disaster risk. ‘Data-poor’ countries do not have easy access to digital maps and other data needed for disaster preparation, early warnings and emergency response.

“This map highlights where in the world support is needed for improving access to the internet and mobile phone networks in order to build resilience to the impact of disasters.”

Co-researcher Mathias Leidig used data from the World Bank website to produce the map and found that the level of data poverty does not necessarily correspond to a nation’s wealth.

Mr Leidig said: “Italy, Antigua and Barbuda, Oman and Trinidad and Tobago are among the World Bank’s high income countries, but they’re not leading the way in terms of data wealth. This is largely due to the countries’ slow download speeds, compared with other high-income nations.

“However Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Lebanon scored better than one might expect for data poverty, considering their income class.”


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