Key sources of ICT indicators

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2. Key sources of ICT indicators

Most advocacy initiatives and research projects do not undertake the challenge of new data collection to devise their own ICT indicators. However, for different advocacy moments, we still need statistical information from legitimate and recognised sources. This section briefly identifies the organisations that currently have significant stocks of ICT indicators available to the public for free or at a nominal cost. Whether the entity collecting data has the sufficient resources, legitimacy and mandate for such an undertaking are also important to consider. There is no shortage of ICT indicators sources, and there are also strong overlaps with measurement of other sectors that are being transformed by the use of ICT – economic, poverty and governance assessments, health, education, etc.

Many international organisations such as the World Economic Forum and UNESCO’s Orbicom produce reports with indicator collections that are either devoted specifically to perspectives on the ICT terrain at national and regional levels, or which use ICT indicators in the context of a broader assessment, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index. [2]Historically, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) housed the mother of all ICT-related indicator collections, which it makes available in printed reports, at its website and in databases. The ITU also figures prominently in high level initiatives to achieve consensus around which indicators should be collected and how to build better indicators in order to better understand ICTs and their impact on society and more effectively assess and measure their diffusion and absorption across the world. The ITU [3]maintains roughly 80 sets of ICT statistics that are made available via its website or print publications and CD-ROMs. The ITU’s Digital Opportunity Index (DOI) draws upon eleven of these indicators to provide a composite measure and ranking of nations' ICT capability. The ITU served as the host secretariat for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). During the first phase of the Summit (2003) the theme of indicators was highlighted and the seeds were planted for establishing the multi-stakeholder entity, Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, and for the DOI.

The World Bank [4]collects hundreds of indicators across a number of different sectors and maintains these in different databases available at their website. The ICT at a Glance pages offer 27 ICT-related indicators, but other sectors such as health and education also have ICT-related statistics. The Knowledge Assessment Methodology(KAM), [5]initiated by the World Bank Institute, works to resolve which indicators are central to assessing the new economy and uses more than 80 of them as the basis for the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI); of these, 12 are specifically ICT-related indicators. A knowledge economy will be characterised by an educated and skilled labour force, an effective innovation system, adequate information infrastructure and conducive endowments in terms of economic and institutional regimes. The KAM illustrates some of the complexity in assessing the ICT terrain and contributions to socioeconomic improvements at a national level as elements of ICT adoption and access traverse these different domains. It has been argued that in past years the World Bank, seeking to demonstrate the effectiveness of Washington consensus policies, has made choices that skew indicators in favour of this perception. As discussed below, all indicators have their respective biases.

In June 2004 during the 11th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), an international, multi-stakeholder Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development was launched. The Measuring ICT website housed by UNCTAD, and the WSIS thematic meetings on different aspects of ICT indicators and measurement, are the direct results of the WSIS emphasis on indicators, and are working towards agreeing to a set of standardised ICT indicators to measure the information society that would be collected across all countries and allow for benchmarking and comparison.

As the information society gains momentum, reliable statistical data and indicators regarding ICT readiness, use and impact are increasingly and urgently needed. Reliable ICT statistical data and indicators help policy makers to formulate policies and strategies for ICT-driven economic growth, to measure their impact, and to monitor and evaluate ICT-related developments.

ICT statistical data and indicators must also be comparable at the international level, in order to allow developing countries to benchmark their information economies with those of developed countries and to take policy decisions to narrow the digital divide (UNCTAD – Measuring ICT website).

The Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development has developed a text,Core ICT Indicators (UN, 2005) ,which identifies indicators used to assess:

  • ICT infrastructure and access
  • Access to, and use of, ICT by households and individuals
  • Use of ICT by businesses
  • The ICT sector and trade in ICT goods

The text describes the intention of each indicator and proposes model questions for obtaining an accurate response and hence accurate data. This list of indicators does not claim to be complete and identifies the process as continuous and subject to periodic review. In the same vein, the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) website [6]provides a metadata section listing the methodology and data used to inform the MDG indicators.

These international agencies work with national level statistical agencies to obtain data, and in the case of the Partnership on Measuring ICT, to arrive at consensus on which indicators should be collected and the methodology for their collection. An extensive (and perhaps exhaustive) list of national statistical agencies is maintained on the Measuring the Information Society website. [7]Collecting and maintaining (updating on a regular basis) a stock of indicators is an intensive and costly undertaking for which some developing countries may not choose or be able to allocate resources. In this case, regional associations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and regional development banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank can be important sources for much statistical information and analysis, as they monitor markets, economic conditions, stability, regulatory and governance conditions – many of which will intersect with the ICT terrain. Regional level research organisations such as Research ICT Africa have also been undertaking household level data collection across a number of countries.

During the mid-1990s when privatisation and liberalisation of telecom networks became pervasive around the world, independent national regulatory authorities (NRAs) were established to oversee the reforms. In order to effectively inform regulatory processes and decision-making, NRAs collect information about the sector on many different levels. Some regulators are proactive about making this information publicly available. [8]Where NRAs are under-resourced, regional regulatory associations have a role to better coordinate statistical information about the ICT sector.

Finally, there are a number of research and market intelligence groups that collect and maintain proprietary stocks of information and analysis. These usually cost more than academic or grassroots research budgets will permit. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is an exception to this and makes available their yearly report on e-readiness rankings of 65 countries.

Source Website
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) <>
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Indicators <>
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) <>
Research ICT Africa! (RIA!) <>
UNCTAD: Measuring the information society <>
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): Human Development Report <>
World Bank (WB): Information & Communications for Development (IC4D) - Global Trends and Policies <>
World Bank (WB): World Development Indicators <>
Index Source
Digital Access Index (DAI) International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Digital Opportunity Index (DOI) International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
E-Readiness Index Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
E-Readiness Index United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management (UNPAN)
ICT Index World Bank
Index of ICT Diffusion United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Index of Knowledge Societies (IKS) World Bank (WB)
Infostates Orbicom
Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) World Bank Institute
Networked Readiness Index (NRI) World Economic Forum
Technology Achievement Index (TAI) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

This report was originally published as part of a larger compilation: “Global Information Society watch 2007: Participation ” which can be downloaded from
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