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The ICT Opportunity Index - The evolution of the Digital Divide
Simply understood as the gaps between ICT ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, the Digital Divide represents the newest addition to the enormous chasms in the stage of development and the standard of living among economies. The ICT Opportunity Index is the merger of two wellknown initiatives, ITU’s Digital Access Index (DAI) and Orbicom’s Monitoring the Digital Divide/ Infostate conceptual framework and model. The conceptual framework of the index introduces the notions of a country’s infodensity and info-use. Infodensity refers to the slice of a country’s overall capital and labour stocks, which are ICT capital and ICT labour stocks and indicative of productive capacity. Info-use refers to the consumption flows of ICTs. Technically, it is possible to aggregate the two and arrive at the degree of a country’s ‘ICT-ization’, or infostate. The Digital Divide is then defined as the relative difference in infostates among economies. Thus, Infodensity = sum of all ICT stocks (capital and labour) Info-use = consumption flows of ICTs/period Infostate = aggregation of infodensity and info-use It is differences among countries’ Infostates that constitute the Digital Divide. Since Infostates are dynamic and ever-evolving, the Digital Divide is a relative concept. Any progress made by developing countries must be examined against the progress made by developed ones. The index provides explicit measurements both across countries at a given point in time (from 1995 to 2003) and within countries over-time, and allows immediate benchmarking against the average of all countries (Hypothetica) and the planet as a whole (Planetia). Hypothetica is an economy with values equal to the average of all economies covered in the model, and Planetia represents the planet at large, as if it were one economy. The Evolution of the Digital Divide Infostate values for all economies have increased over the 1995-2003 period, and the infostate values for Hypothetica and Planetia increased more than two-and-a-half times over the nine-year period. Differences between the Infostate values for each economy and Hypothetica are plotted on the chart, providing a first glimpse at the evolution of the Digital Divide. The 2003 line lies visibly ‘inside’ the 1995 line at the bottom end, while it crosses to the ‘outside’ only at the very top end. This increased steepness is indicative of a generally closing Digital Divide. The gap between the very bottom economy (Chad) and the average closed more than the gap between the very top economy (Denmark) and the average. Alternatively, the average increased by more than the top, which means that the Infostates of economies below average increased proportionately more than the Infostates of highly advanced economies.

Many economies made quite significant improvements, others more modest and, generally, Infostates increased each and every year - with a few minor exceptions. The economies with the highest growth rates are those with the most room to grow – that is, economies with the lowest Infostates. The Sudan led economies in Infostate growth, followed by many African economies, including Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Ethiopia. By the same token, economies with comparatively lower growth are typically economies with highly advanced Infostates, including the U.S., Canada, Scandinavian and other European economies. The example of Sudan and Qatar is also an interesting one: Sudan achieved an Infostate value of 29.1 in 2003, which was the value for Qatar in 1995. Similarly, Nicaragua’s 1995 Infostate value was identical to Uganda’s 2003 value – it took nearly a decade for Uganda to reach Nicaragua, although by then Nicaragua had moved up to 48.5. Malaysia (110.9 in 2003) is also nearly ten years behind the top economy Denmark (109.7 in 1995), but an almost equal time distance ahead of India. The timeline of Infostate values reveals that, all things being equal, literally decades are needed for the economies with low Infostates to catch up to the top economies.

Source: “From the Digital Divide to DIGITAL OPPORTUNITIES: Measuring Infostates for Development”, Orbicom/ITU, 2005, Dr Sciadas (ed)


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Updated : 2007-08-29