Bangladesh slipped three notches in the Inclusive Internet Index 2021, ranking 82nd among 120 countries, where most countries witnessed gains in internet inclusion.
With the global ranking, Bangladesh is the 6th least internet inclusive country among 27 Asian economies this year, only ahead of Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea, according to the index.
Australia, which was included in the Asia category in the index, ranked 4th globally and topped in Asia.
The top performer in South Asia was India at 49th position followed by Sri Lanka at 77th and Bangladesh at 82nd.
The countries in this year's index represented 98% of global GDP and 96% of global population.
This year's Inclusive Internet Index, commissioned by Facebook and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), was released on 14 April.
Bangladesh was in the 79th position on the 2020 index, while it was in 74th among 101 countries on the 2019 index. It performed better on the 2018 index where it was in 63rd position among 88 countries.
The index assessed countries in four categories of inclusion: Availability, Affordability, Relevance and Readiness. Each category incorporates key indicators of internet inclusion, including quantitative measures such as network coverage and pricing, and qualitative measures such as the presence of e-inclusion policies and the availability of local-language content.
Bangladesh achieved an overall score of 59.9 out of 100 this year while it scored 60.9 in 2020.
Scoring 100 represents the strongest environment for the adoption and productive use of the internet.
Bangladesh's performance on four pillars
The EIU said Bangladesh's only improvement was in the "Relevance" category this year, thanks to an increased availability of e-government services in local languages. This category examines the existence and extent of local language content and relevant content.
The country scored 67.6 in this category this year, while it scored 63.4 in 2020 – ranked 80th globally.
The EIU said, however, Bangladesh continues to struggle with patchy coverage, digital literacy, and a dearth of relevant content.
Bangladesh's score fell most in the "Readiness" category – from 69.7 last year to 62.7 in 2021. This category examines the capacity to access the internet, including skills, cultural acceptance, and supporting policy. The country ranked 76th in this category.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh ranked 87th in the "Availability" category, which examines the quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for internet access and the levels of internet usage. The country scored only 53.7 which was the lowest among the four categories.
Further analysis of the EIU data suggests that among the countries in the "Availability" category, Bangladesh was ranked 98th in the "Usage" indicator.
The "Usage" category measures the size of the connected population in terms of internet and mobile connectivity. The EIU index stated that the percentage of households with the internet was only 37.6% and the fixed-line broadband subscription was 4.96 per 100 inhabitants.
Bangladesh ranked 85th in the "Affordability" category which examines the cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the internet marketplace – it scored 62.2.
The EIU said, high gender gaps in mobile access persist in Bangladesh despite mobile data becoming more affordable.
Sweden remained the most internet inclusive country in the world followed by the United States, and Spain.