World Summit on the Information Society Thematic Meeting on Measuring the Information Society Geneva, 7-9 February 2005

World Summit on the Information Society Thematic Meeting on Measuring the Information Society Geneva, 7-9 February 2005


Paper presented by the Afro-Asian Peoples'
Solidarity Organisation-AAPSO

In a world marked by a borderless networked societies, developing countries continue to be increasingly marginalised in terms of information and communications technology (ICT). The promise of technology remains largely unfulfilled with regard to these countries. They are handicapped by serious barriers to take-up.

Nonetheless, owing to the particular characteristics of these countries as of the use and utilization of ICT and to help them keep pace within the global mainstream of the progress of science and technology as well as the most-sought and needed positive effects of globalization, tremendous efforts should be deployed in the  search of appropriate tools aiming at offering clear understanding and knowing of existing realities related to these barriers. These tools or indicators, are crucial factors for the determination of policies and strategies by using ICT in the issue of development.

An approach consisting of choosing the instruments of ICT ( Personal computer PC (Internet), Television, Radio and Mobilephones ) as basis of measuring seemed to be approriate. Further consideration of their comparative performance is crucial in determining indicators in order to help formulate these strategies and policies in developing countries. The task will be facilitated in operating separately with these instruments.

In order to tackle this issue, one will examine it first on the global (macro) and the national (micro) levels.

A)- Assessing and measuring the degree of penetration and assimilation of ICT in the developing countries is essential. This will serve as prior indicator within a global dimension. This requires more informations about the present situation  of ICT in these developing countries from a given period of time in the past until the present time. The assessment by comparison of overall situation is important in measuring the pace with which transactions are conducted in development process as in  terms of exports, transports, telecommunication, financing system, trade infrastructures.

Taking as an example the Internet which is exponentially increasing all over the world, it is possible to determine what proportion of the global number of Internet  represents the share of developing countries. This will give us valuable indicator for further calculation of future trend.

Equally  important is the ratio between the global spending on Internet and that of the developing countries.

By operating separately with the instruments of ICT, there should be a clear picture of a global ratio ICT/per capita in developing countries in order to determine how these instruments influence the daily life of peoples in these  countries. The generation of technology used in these countries compared to the global ICT worldwide and used in rich countries should also be taken into consideration. This includes factors such as inducements to innovation and creativity, prevalence of old technology compared to new techology. In this context, the ratio ICT-Developing countries/ ICT-Developed countries would help in this regard offering global image of the situation in these countries while giving the possibility to assess the prospects of development of ICT in the future as well as the possible cooperation in technology transfer between the two categories of countries.

It is worth noting that the implementation of ICT differs from country to another. The comparison of the overall returns from the resources allocated to the  Research and Development (R&D) in the field of information and communications technology, or to take the overall ratio of growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) depending on the level of development in each country, should be conducted.

Another fact to be taken into consideration in measuring the ICT is to aknowledge that between developing countries themselves exists a growing gap in terms of ICT-induced growth. Fast-growing countries enjoy reliable infrastructures for the use of information and communications technology, while the  ones lagging behind suffer from technological backwardness. It is thus important to determine and compare the  "growth rate" of ICT used in each category of countries according to their share in the implementation of ICT.

Such digital divide among and within the developing countries themselves is an important indicator. It should be a matter of priority to take adequate measures aiming at narrowing this gap in order to further appropriately tackle the divide between them and the technologically advanced countries. Such measures should be undertaken through South-South cooperation, exchange of experiences between them and fight against brain drain which generates huge amount of benefits foregone at the expense of developing countries.

Since the ICT is unevenly distributed or disseminated throughout the world, more attention should be given especially to Africa which is lagging far behind the other continents. Indicators ( like those provided below) made up from African, Asian and Latin American continents would make the difference of pictures related to ICT between them as well as the rest of the world.

B)- By operating separately with the ICT instruments, attention should be focused on the measuring of the effectiveness of using ICT as means of information and communication in developing countries.

The exact knowledge of the situation in the grounds ( sectors of development, geographical distribution of ICT in each country..) is fundamental owing to the  evolutive nature and characteristics of ICT acquirements. This is true by measuring the amount of their financing through real and reliable data collected on the ground.

The gathering and analysis of informations from different kinds of ICT in each country are critical factors. The dissemination of tools of mass media like television, radio sets, mobilephones, PC(Internet) has reached such proportion that allows to easily measure the state of situation related to the ICT.

With available informations at one's disposal, it will not be difficult to determine the ratio between the PC(Internet), TV, radio sets ( if available), mobilephones and the number of population, done separately with each of these instruments, giving the possiblity to assess the comparative efficiency, effectiveness  or performance of each of these instruments.

No less important represents the  calculation of ratio between the average income of population of each country and the possible expenses for acquiring such instruments of ICT (average income/ average prices of ICT used).

These informations are very useful in using ICT in  business (e-business, e-finance...) and schools, depending on the capacity of business people, governments and even family, to spend for ICT, meaning the availability of the necessary resources at their disposal. All this require from the developing countries using ICT an adequate formulation of national e-strategies and e-policies.

Measuring the costs/benefits factor of using ICT is crucial in determining the returns from the investments in ICT at the national level.

For those indicators to be successfully used, the state of the engine development in all its sectors in every developing nation should be strictly monitored; every factor of production, major sectors of development, distribution and services derived from the utilization of ICT instruments should be subject to thouroughful sustained analysis. Strong involvement of every actor of socio-economic development, mainly the civil society, NGOs, business communities, is needed.

Bearing in mind the necessity to tackle seriously first and foremost the digital divide within and among the developing countries as mentioned above, in coping simultaneously with the issue of digital divide between them and the developed countries (failing to do so would perpetuate the sorry situation related to the need of ICT in the development process of developing nations), there should be an imperative necessity to narrow the latter gap, by measuring the progress made in successive periods of time based on data taken as reference.

Strong impetus should be put to the relationship between these developing nations in order to get the opportunity to meet the challenges of globalization and to make progress over obstacles put by rich countries in terms of access to their markets, subsidies, debt, intellectual properties, as well as all discriminatory measures. The ICT as an engine of progress and prosperity could help developing and developed  countries  go side by side on the way to genuine cooperation in attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

It is necesary to monitor the evolution of the utilization of the ICT in the society of the developing countries, in order to know what have been achieved and what is expected to be done in the future. This underlines the importance of determining the level of utilization of each of the ICT instruments in these nations, their scientific and technological level, the  indicators of their respective performance and efficiency in sectors of education, health, employment, R&D, trade and business. For example:

- To know the number of PC(Internet) in schools, healthcare units, firms, all centers of activities taking part in the process of development, indicating the categories of people (male and female) using them.

- To determine the proportion of the population in the country ( with gender indicated) who use PC(Internet) in a given period of time. The future trend can be thus  determined.           

- To know the percentage change, or growth, of the number of Television sets in a given period of time, their areas distribution (rural and urban). The use of TV as means of educational activities ( i.e. Tele-conference; Tele-school; Tele-training..etc..). Further determination of the trend would follow.

- It should be admitted that, without highly sophisticated instruments of measure and due to the large quantity of mobilesphones in function in each country of developing nations, it will be difficult to quantify the number of mobilephones in an appropriate manner.

All data resulting from the operations of measuring conducted may be considered indicators, being themselves the components of overall indicators of progress in terms of using ICT for development.

With reliable data from the ICT used in each sector of development, it is necessary to calculate the need in the future of these ICT in the sector by calculating the possible increase in number of instruments used; the expected increase in number of people who might need them; the expected cost (spending) to cover these needs.

All these  indicators are of very important significance in terms of attaining the Millennium Development Goals in fighting issues like illiteracy, poverty, famine, illness, backwardness, lack of appropriate and decent sanitation, gender issue...

Of crucial importance represents the reliability of collected data; the transparency and accountalibity in conducting the task; the good governance and the respect of basic human rights. It should be underlined in this regard the objective of ICT applications towards improving the economic competitiveness of developing countries, especially with respect to development, trade, progress and prosperity.