Economic growth in countries is hampered by 'gross inadequacy of telecommunication facilities'. The accelerating development in the technology of semiconductors, optical fibres and satellites means that some countries, while making large investments in communications, are getting ever farther behind. Only a few years ago the most advanced integrated circuit consisted of about 10,000 components on a single chip. Today that complexity is in the range of 100,000 components per chip, and by 1990, will go up to a million. Telecommunication networks may be considered as 'the central nervous systems of complex societies'. In particular it is impossible, without adequate telephone service, to meet the growing communication needs of business, government and the professions in developing countries. Present demand so far exceeds supply that business and government entities are often forced to build uneconomic private systems for their own use.
In 1983, 1,200 million television sets and telephones concentrated largely in nine countries. World statistics for 1980 indicate that the average number of telephones in use per 100 population was: 11.5 overall in the world; 1.1 in Africa; 3.1 in Asia; 5.5 in South America; 33.9 in Europe (excluding the USSR); 42 in Oceania; and 58 in North America. 1971 figures were 55 in North America, 18 in western Europe and 22 in Japan. In 1983, three-quarters of the world's 600 million telephones were concentrated in nine countries : USA (80 telephones per 100 population); Sweden (78); UK (48); Japan (48); (West) Germany (44); Italy (31); Hong Kong (30); Spain (29); Barbados (21). Those densities, are in sharp contrast to a country such as Ethiopia which has about 0.2 per hundred.
In 1971, the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America had only 7% of all telephones, serving 61% of the world's population. In 1983 more than half of the world's population lived in countries with less than one telephone per 100 inhabitants. In such countries most telephones are concentrated in a few cities, with little or no service in many areas. Typically, there is a large gap between demand and supply; the waiting list for new connections is often greater than the number of telephones in service, and the waiting time is often several years. Many of these countries still make use of party-line systems; in Zimbabwe, for example, the average party line serves 10 subscribers. In most countries, traffic exceeds capacity, resulting in overloaded facilities and deteriorating service.
[Small island developing states] Communications between island developing countries are very costly, especially when considered in proportion to the populations involved. This applies within regions; it is even more the case between regions, since island developing countries are scattered throughout the oceans of the world. The island developing countries are not able to benefit from each other's experience in seeking solutions to the specific problems they share under these conditions. Insufficient attention has been devoted to the potential offered by technological advances in the field of telecommunications, particularly since it is becoming easier to provide small, remote communities with proper telecommunications. Lack of technical and financial assistance for installing or improving telecommunications is an obstacle to sustainable developmental programmes for the island countries.
[Land-locked developing countries] The inadequacy of communication links between various ports and commercial centres in land-locked developing countries and between ports and overseas markets continues to be a major handicap inhibiting the speedy movement of transit cargo. This often leads to long delays in getting the cargo in and out of the ports, since there is irregular information on the time schedules for the arrival and departure of cargo. The costs caused by such delays can be considerable. This aggravates the already poor transport and communications along the transit corridors.