Yawning gap in ICT regulation among LLDCs, assessment says

KATHMANDU, MAY 18: An assessment paper on digital connectivity and ICT data among landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) has revealed a significant gap in ICT regulatory initiatives among LLDCs.

The assessment report, recently released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), highlights the digital challenges and growth in LLDCs through comparative data analyses.

The document, titled ‘Measuring Digital Development,’ stated that the disparity in the level of ICT regulatory maturity is prominent among LLDCs, with an 83-point gap between the countries with the most and least advanced levels of ICT regulation. “The majority of LLDCs, 53 percent, remain in the less advanced stages of ICT regulation (G1 and G2),” it noted, underlining the need to create an enabling environment for universal and meaningful connectivity.

“While some LLDCs have fast-tracked ICT regulatory reform over the past decade, most have been moving at a slower pace,” it added.

It is worth noting that when the internet is regarded as the ‘infrastructure of infrastructure,’ the percentage of people online in LLDCs is only 39 percent. The publication mentioned, “In 2023, about 226 million people in LLDCs were using the internet. This accounts for 39 percent of the population of these countries, compared with 69 percent of the world’s population using the internet.” Consequently, 351 million people in LLDCs are still deprived of essential connectivity.

Another worrying trend the publication revealed is the gender gap in internet use, which showed ‘no sign of narrowing in LLDCs.’

The young (15-24 age group) dominate internet use, with more than half, 54 percent, online in 2023.

On a positive note, the document stated that LLDCs were nearing the global averages in terms of the readiness of national frameworks for digital transformation.

The assessment covers issues like ICT regulation and digital policy frameworks, internet use, broadband subscriptions, e-commerce and the digital economy, mobile network coverage, affordability, mobile phone ownership and subscriptions, internet traffic, and international bandwidth disparity among LLDCs.

The publication pointed out the need for LLDCs to increase data volume and quality for thriving e-commerce and digital economies. “As digitalization progresses, LLDCs will also need to know the extent to which businesses are using the internet and adopting e-commerce, the value of e-commerce transactions, and the barriers to adoption that policy could address,” the document stressed.

The assessment document categorized LLDCs into four groups, with Nepal falling into the third group. The third group is characterized by ‘slightly lower average shares of internet use, mobile phone ownership, and broadband subscriptions than the second group.’

Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, Cosmas Lukcyson Zavazava, observed, “Our data indicates that LLDCs are at various stages in their journey toward universal and meaningful connectivity, yet they share common obstacles and can benefit from mutual learning. Infrastructure development is part of the solution, but robust policy frameworks that promote investment, adoption, and innovation in ICTs are equally vital.”

Meanwhile, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day was observed yesterday (May 17) across the globe under the slogan: ‘Digital Innovation for Sustainable Development.’