Barbados 'well wired'
by TONY BEST
BARBADOS is a wired nation, connected to both the telephone and the Internet.
According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UNICEF, the island has a communications profile, meaning its use of telephones and the Internet that places it among an elite group in the world. In many cases its ratios of telephone or Internet users placed it ahead of many industrialised nations.
Data compiled by the ITU and published in UNICEF's latest report on the State Of The World's Children 2007, showed that when it came to use of the information super-highway, Barbados with 55 users for every 100 people in the country was above Japan, Italy, Czech Republic and Denmark, each with a ratio of 50.
At the same time, it edged out New Zealand with 53 per 100 population, Switzerland 47; Estonia 51; Monaco 49; Austria 48; Germany 43; Israel 47; France 41 and Belgium 40. Its usage was way ahead of Portugal's 28; Hungary's 27; and the energy-rich nations of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago, Oman and Qatar.
The dimensions of the gulf of Internet use were underscored by the fact that India, home of one of the world's fastest growing high-technology industries and a major international call centre, had a figure of three Internet users per 100 population as compared with China's 7. Their vast populations, each of more than one billion people, influenced the low ratios.
One way of looking at the Internet use was to focus on those nations which were ahead of Barbados. Only Australia, Canada, Finland, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Britain and the United States had higher ratios per head of population.
That ensured that no country in the Caribbean and Latin America surpassed the island whose ratio topped the 52 of the industrialised nations. The world average was 13 while the developing nations had a ratio of six.
A similar but less dramatic picture emerged with the use of telephones. ITU data showed that between 2000-2004, Bajans had 124 telephones for every 100 people. That was more than Canada's 111; Hungary's 122; Chile's 84; Croatia's 106; Russian Federation's 99 and Japan's 118.
While no Caribbean nation had a higher ratio, several came close to having a telephone for each person on their soil. While only Antigua with 119 surpassed the 100 mark, Jamaica had 97, Dominica 88, St Vincent 75; Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago 74 each.
The importance of telephone and Internet use was underscored by its inclusion in a table measuring the level of education.
"The figures point to something we already know and it is that Barbados has developed a country pattern in more ways than one," said a Government official. "Our levels of education, minus tertiary level, and health profile, resemble those of many European countries."