GSMA ranks the world’s access to the mobile internet (with a little help from OpenSignal)

While OpenSignal publishes plenty of its own reports, we occasionally contribute our data to other research projects focusing on global mobile trends. Last week the GSM Association launched just such a research initiative, and it’s quite the undertaking. Called the Mobile Connectivity Index, the extensive report attempts to categorize the mobile internet adoption, readiness and performance of 134 countries.

The Mobile Connectivity Index ranks 134 countries in terms of access to the mobile internet (Source: GSMA)

The Mobile Connectivity Index ranks 134 countries in terms of access to the mobile internet (Source: GSMA)

In compiling the report, GSMA Intelligence drew upon OpenSignal’s mobile speed and latency data, which we collect from millions of users in OpenSignal’s crowdsourced community. But speed test and network responsiveness data only make up a portion of this ambitious index. The index methodology takes into account not just the telecom infrastructure built in a country but economic factors like rate-plan affordability, demographic factors like literacy and cultural factors like gender equality that make mobile internet services accessible (or inaccessible) to a broad population.

For instance, the Connectivity Index’s infrastructure calculations put significant weight on our download speed and latency measurement, but it places almost as much emphasis on supporting factors like access to electricity and the number of servers per million inhabitants. After all, having a fast and responsive 3G or 4G connection means little if you don’t have a way to charge your phone or have access to content in your native language.

Consequently, a lot of different metrics went into calculating this index, ranging from economic data collected by the World Bank and demographic data tallied by UNESCO. The end result, though, is an index number applied to each country that rates its overall level of mobile accessibility. Australia was at the top of the index with a score of 84.7.

OpenSignal recently published our first State of Mobile Networks report for Australia, and we also found that the land down under was among the global leaders in mobile broadband speeds and availability, though by no means first. The GSMA, however, found that mobile infrastructure wasn’t the determining factor in calculating Australia’s world-leading index score. In fact, several other countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.S. and South Korea beat out Australia in infrastructure. Instead, it was Australia’s superior marks in mobile service affordability, consumer readiness and locally relevant content that pushed it to the top of the list. Conversely Afghanistan had the fifth worst rating on the index, not because it had the most underdeveloped mobile networks. Rather, Afghanistan’s low rating comes from consumer readiness issues ranging from adult literacy to gender inequality.

Countries with the highest Mobile Connectivity Index scores (source: GSMA)

Countries with the highest Mobile Connectivity Index scores (source: GSMA)

The goal of the index is to help the telecom industry to get to universal internet access across the globe by identifying all of the different economic and social levers that can be pulled beyond merely building new networks. It’s also intended to be an indicator of where a country should be in its mobile internet development. For instance, most sub-Saharan countries in Africa have low mobile internet adoption rates, which in most cases line up with their lower connectivity index scores. Meanwhile, there are several countries ranging from China to Poland to Costa Rica that have much higher mobile internet adoption rates than countries with similar index scores. The GSMA calls these countries “fast transitioners,” and in many cases they’ve managed to overcome limitations in infrastructure by making mobile services more affordable or maintaining social institutions that encourage broader internet adoption.

In any case, the index is a fascinating report reflecting an ambitious approach to solving one of the world’s biggest problems, the digital divide. We at OpenSignal are proud to be a part of it.

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