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 Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Digital Opportunity Index (DOI) is a composite index that has been developed by the ITU/Digital Opportunity Platform to measure countries' progress in ICTs and digital opportunity, as part of the endorsed methodology for WSIS evaluation and follow-up. It is a flexible methodology that has been used in many different ways. Every day this week, SPU will demonstrate a different application of the DOI, to show its flexible and versatile applications for policy analysis.

The urban/rural digital divide is one of the most obvious divisions in many countries (depending on their geography, degree of urbanisation and industrial development, among other factors). ITU has traditionally sought to monitor the urban/rural divide in telecoms using the indicators of % of main lines in urban areas and mainlines in the largest city. For example, in China, as recently as 2004, just over two-thirds of all mainlines were to be found in urban areas (World Telecommunication Indicators).

However, the urban/rural divide extends far beyond connectivity. Differences in digital opportunity between urban and rural areas are also evident in the price of access to ICTs (often more expensive in rural areas), speed and quality of access (what the Nigerian blogger Oro calls "plug and pray") and technology in e.g., coverage of population with a mobile signal. The Digital Opportunity Index measures all these different aspects to access to ICTs.

For most countries, detailed data on urban/rural differences for all these aspects are difficult to come by. However, at the recent Digital Opportunity Forum held in Korea, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology presented its expert analysis of the urban/rural divide in Egypt (see figure below). Taking into account differences in price, coverage, Internet availability and usage, the Ministry calculated that the rural population in Egypt has one quarter less opportunity to access and use ICTs as in urban areas. This points to a measurable and significant urban/rural divide in connectivity in a country where the vast majority of the population (95%) live in the fertile Nile valley. The DOI provides a means not only of quantifying the extent of this urban/rural divide, but also of monitoring its future evolution.

The urban/rural divide in Egypt


Source: Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, presented to the Digital Opportunity Forum, 1 September 2006.

For more information about the Digital Opportunity Index, click here.