The Internet got its start in the United States, where it's now a major part of virtually every American's daily life. Yet, for all its online innovation, the U.S. lags pretty far behind other countries when it comes to having the fastest Internet.
Several other countries outshine the U.S. in terms of their communications infrastructure. That's according to an ongoing analysis of communications infrastructures monitored by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The ITU has developed an index, the Information and Communication Technologies Development Index (IDI). It compares countries on their access to the Internet and other communication technologies. The idea is to ensure that people living in underdeveloped countries have access to the Internet.
So, which country ranks No. 1? That's South Korea, which has an 8.93 IDI. It also ranked No. 1 in 2010, with an 8.64 IDI.
The United States isn't in bad shape, with an 8.19 IDI. Its ranking, No. 15, is up from 16 in 2010 when it had a 7.30 IDI. (See chart.)
Other countries with high IDIs include Denmark, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Sweden. They rank No. 2 through No. 5, respectively. The UK, notably, improved its ranking from No. 10 five years ago.
The International Telecommunication Union creates its index using a number of factors related to connectivity, including the rollout of 4G LTE networks the past few years. 4G LTE connections are significantly faster than older connections, like 2G devices that can take eight seconds or more to download a Web page, compared to just a fraction of a second on a 4G LTE network. Note: 5G is in development; read more about it here.
This information comes from ITU's annual report, "Measuring the Information Society." They also found that, while 80% of households in developed countries have Internet connections, less than 7% of households in the world's least-developed countries have Internet access. Overall, 46% of homes worldwide have Internet access.
The ITU found that most people around the world have access to mobile devices. In fact, nearly 97 out of 100 homes have access to cellphone subscriptions, while 95 out of 100 have access to slow 2G networks. Only 47 out of 100 have access to broadband mobile, although that's up from about 5 out of 100 homes in 2007.
Meantime, while 46 out of 100 households have Internet connections, the ITU's goal is that will increase to 55 out of 100 by 2020. It also has the goal of increasing the number of people with access to 60 of 100 by 2020.