South Africa’s internet speeds have overtaken the developing country average, even if only by a bit.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) puts out a report every year detailing internet connectivity in the world. This connectivity is expressed as  the ICT Development Index, or IDI and it tells us a lot about the status of internet in Africa and the rest of the world.

The IDI ranks a country’s  information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and performance, basically turning its access to the internet into a simple number.

For Africa, Seychelles, South Africa and Cape Verde were the only three to beat out the average IDI for developing countries, which is 4.12. Mauritius, on the other hand, comes out on top as the only African country to score higher than the global average of 5.03.

To put some of the above numbers into perspective, South Korea sits at the top of the charts at 8.93, with the United States in 20th position with 8.19. South Africa is all the way down in 88th position out of 167 surveyed countries, with an IDI of 4.90.

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The ITU calls these rankings “widening gaps” as middle-ranked countries grow further away from those at the top.

To make matters worse,  29 of of 37 African countries rank in the bottom quarter of the 2015 IDI, which includes 11 countries ranked lowest of all.

Tanzania, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea and finally Chad sit in positions 157 to 167 respectively.

And these numbers aren’t improving much, either, with the average rise in IDI for Africa between 2010 and 2015 being 0.65, lower than that in other regions. Ghana made the biggest strides with an IDI increase of 1.92 points and a meteoritic rise of 21 places in the global rankings. Lesotho, Cape Verde and Mali also improved notably in this time frame.

ITU’s  Connect 2020 Agenda is aiming to get at least 50% of households in developing countries and 15% of households in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) connected to the internet by 2020. Unfortunately, they estimate that they will only feasibly achieve actual connection rates of 45% and 11% respectively in that time frame.

The rest of the world

Outside of Africa the news is much brighter: 43.4% of the global population is now online, meaning that an estimated 3.2 billion people have access to the internet. Furthermore, 95% of the global population is covered by a mobile-cellular signal with 7.1 billion subscriptions. While an estimated 350 million people still have no way to connect to the internet, that number has dropped from 450 million only a year ago. The prevalence of mobile internet may have contributed to internet connectivity pricing, which has been found to be falling across the world.

ITU calls the price of internet “more affordable – but not universally affordable”, stating that mobile broadband has seen the biggest decreases in price. Inversely, fixed broaband increased in price between 2013 and 2014.

If you have a head for numbers (and extremely long reports filled to the brim with stats and graphs), you can read a PDF of the executive summary here. Don’t let the word “summary” fool you though, it’s 252 pages long.  If that doesn’t scare you, you can buy the entire report for 59 CHF (R826).

[Source – ITU’s global ICT data and ICT Development Index country rankings]