Internet infrastructure lagging as usage grows

ACCESSIBILITY::The provision of Internet services is not meeting the growing demand in Taiwan, which is likely to affect economic growth, academics said

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 - Page 14

The number of wireless Internet users has grown rapidly in Taiwan over the past 10 years, but academics say the government still needs to increase its spending on broadband infrastructure and improve high-speed Internet provision and minority groups’ access to the Internet.

A survey conducted by the non-profit Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC) showed that more than 9.76 million people aged 12 or over had used wireless Internet in Taiwan during a six-month period up to October. This was up by 11.9 percent compared with a survey last year.

The figure is much higher than the average annual growth rate of 3.3 percent over the past 10 years, indicating that the chosen form of communication nowadays is via the Internet provided on mobile devices, such as notebooks, smartphones or tablets.

The survey reported that 77.25 percent of respondents had used the Internet, much more than the 57.23 percent shown in a separate survey conducted 10 years ago.

However, 67.95 percent of those polled said they faced problems accessing the Internet and 52.8 percent said that “unstable Internet connection and poor quality” were their biggest concern, 34.4 percent were unsatisfied with slow Internet downloads and 22.08 percent felt frustrated at slow upload speeds, the survey showed.

While telecom carriers have built infrastructure for consumers to access the Internet wirelessly, many people are still unaware that Internet availability is so convenient and readily available. Those living in mountainous areas or the elderly who have never experienced the latest technology products are key examples, one academic said yesterday at a forum organized by the TWNIC.

“Internet infrastructure should be regarded as national infrastructure built for future generations,” said Hsiao Nai-yi (蕭乃沂), associate professor in the Department of Public Administration at National Chengchi University.

“The government must realize the urgency and start inviting businesses to jointly develop value-added applications made for mobile devices or build secure data protection systems to make Internet users feel safe putting data on the Web,” Hsiao said.

Long-distance medical care and data management are services that the government can provide for mobile devices users, Hsiao said, adding that it is crucial for the public sector to take the lead in exploring the new market by increasing investment spending to “create potential demand” to motivate citizens to use the Internet so that telecom companies’ infrastructure can be effectively used.

Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男), professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering at National Taiwan University, described broadband as “a nation’s information highway,” and urged the government to open more bandwidth for telecom carriers to boost Internet traffic and make a contribution to the economy.

“The more the government invests in the infrastructure, the better the country’s economic growth will be,” Lin said.

Wu Chyi-in (吳齊殷), a researcher at the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica, also called on the government to solve the issue of inadequate resources in the country and put more emphasis on assisting minority groups that cannot afford to use the Internet.

Citing the Academia Sinica report, Wu said about 80 percent of people living in urban areas have access to the Internet while the majority of people living in mountainous areas do not because of pricing issues.

“We expect the government can provide minority groups nationwide with more ‘digital opportunities’ that can help them connect to the world. Internet bandwidth is also a resource that should be equally allocated in society,” Wu said.