The UAE has significantly improved its information and communication technology or ICT levels, ranking sixth in the International Telecommunication Union's ICT price basket in 2008.
The country also ranks first in ITU's new ICT Development Index (IDI) in the Arab World.
The index, which compares developments in ICT in 154 countries over a five-year period from 2002 to 2007, shows that the UAE recorded a gain in index value of around 300 per cent, among the highest in the world. It was preceded only by Luxembourg, Japan, Ireland and France.
This places the UAE on 32, up from 40 in 2002.
Mobile phone broadband penetration in the country was already at 46.6 per cent in 2007. Similarly, mobile cellular penetration reached one of the highest values globally in 2007 – 176 per 100 inhabitants.
The UAE tops other GCC countries in the index, which saw Bahrain and Qatar ranked 42nd and 43rd, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on the 55th and 57th ranks and Oman in 77th place.
All the GCC states went up, except Bahrain, which went down by four points from 38 to 42, and Oman, which went one notch down from 76 to 77.
The UAE also ranked third in the overall ICT price basket for 2008 together with Luxembourg, Denmark, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden and Norway.
It ranked sixth in the mobile cellular sub-basket 2008, third in the fixed telephone sub-basket and 22nd in the fixed broadband internet sub-basket 2008.
Monitoring the cost of ICT services is important because it influences or even determines whether people will subscribe to a certain service and use ICTs. Although ICT infrastructure is crucial in providing the basic pre-requisite for citizens to access and use ICTs, the services offered have to be affordable.
Besides other factors, a successful and vibrant Information Society needs to be within its people's means.
Half of the developing countries have an ICT Price Basket that corresponds to more than 10 per cent of their GNI per capita. This suggests that countries with higher income levels pay relatively little for ICT services, while low-income countries pay relatively more.
In addition, the high value of the ICT Price Basket in several developing countries is partly explained by very high fixed Internet broadband prices.
The results of the ICT Price Basket further suggest that the relative price of ICT services is linked to a country's ICT level. In other words, generally, countries with high prices have lower access and usage levels.
The economies ranked at the top of the ICT Price Basket include some of the most advanced economies in terms of ICT uptake and use, such as Singapore, the United States, Luxembourg, Denmark, Hong Kong, Sweden and Norway. These are the economies with the lowest relative price of ICTs.
However, bucking this trend, the UAE shares the dubious distinction of having the highest cost of telephone and especially mobile phone calls, along with Egypt, Italy and Hong Kong.
It is also among the highest in the world for residential monthly telephone subscription, the World Economic Forum said based on the estimates of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
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