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More Than Half The World Has Cell Phones

Jennifer Bosavage

The report shows that mobile technology is becoming the most desirable means of communication -- especially in poor countries. The numbers show dramatic growth: By the end of 2008, there were an estimated 4.1 billion subscriptions globally, compared with roughly 1 billion in 2002, according to the International Telecommunication Union, one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations.

The study also looked at the Internet, and found that worldwide, usage has more than doubled: Approximately 23 percent of the population uses the Internet, up from 11 percent in 2002. Still, poor countries are far less likely to surf the Net. For example, only 1 in 20 people in Africa went online in 2007.

In addition, the report ranked countries according to how advanced their use of information and communications technology (ICT) is. On the U.N. telecommunications agency's ICT Development Index, the U.S. slipped six places this year to 17th. Topping the list was Sweden, which had more cellular accounts than inhabitants by 2007. More than 80 percent of Swedish households have computers and nearly as many have Internet connections. Large developing countries such as China (73) and India (118) were constricted by the size of their populations.

Developing countries, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Vietnam, have moved up significantly in the ICT Index during the past five years, partly due to high cellular growth coupled with an increase in Internet users.

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