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Policy and Strategy Trends

Issue 5: April - June 2003       Français   HTML    Espańol   HTML

Previous editions

In this edition:  


1. ICTs for education and buiding human capital
2. The nature of the information society: A developing world perspective
3. Network security: Protecting our critical infrastructures

*“Visions of the information society” is the title of a series of talks organized by the ITU Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) in the context of the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on the Information Society (PrepCom2), held in February 2003 in Geneva. Material in this issue of the “Policy and Strategy Trends” pull-out is based on this series of talks and papers exploring different aspects of the uses, impact and implications of information and communication technologies (ICT) in developing and developed societies. PrepCom2 brought together some 1586 participants from government administrations, private sector entities, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and civil society groups representing various sectors of society at large. 

1. ICTs for education and building human capital

This article is based on the talk and paper by Frances Cairncross, Management Editor at The Economist. More information is available at

Education is widely recognized as one of the major drivers of economic development and improvements in human welfare. As global economic competition grows sharper, education becomes an important source of competitive advantage, closely linked to economic growth. It also has a powerful impact on human development.

In developing countries, education is also linked to a whole batch of indicators of human development. Education of women influences the health of children and family size. The experience of Asian economies, in particular in the past two decades, has demonstrated the benefits that public investment in education can bring. Another benefit of a high standard of education delivered at the national level is that young people with strong academic potential are more likely to stay in their home countries. This can help to stem the “brain drain” from poorer nations to richer ones. In richer countries, education is seen as important not just in the early years, but also in later life as a way to improve and update skills and capabilities of the workforce as it grows older and the pace of technological change quickens.

Many constraints stand in the way of delivering education to the right people at the right time. In developing countries, there is frequently a shortage of qualified school teachers, particularly for people who live in scattered communities in rural areas. Money for books and teaching materials are often scarce. In wealthier countries, money is also a problem: in particular, the cost of university education has risen sharply, and students are increasingly expected to directly meet all or part of the cost. There is also the problem of time in higher institutions of learning and training: students who are already in full-time employment find it hard to take part in a university course offered at conventional times of day. Finally, employers, keen to train staff, are often acutely conscious of the costs of taking people away from their main job in order to attend training courses. They are therefore eager for more efficient and flexible ways to deliver information to employees.

All these factors have encouraged an interest in the use of ICTs to deliver education and training. Experience so far has been broadest in developed countries. Easily the largest investments in ICT have been in the United States. Among developing countries, China stands out particularly for the efforts it is making to use ICT to expand education.

Evaluating the effectiveness of ICTs in the classroom is just as hard as evaluating other interventions in education. What is clear is that ICTs are potentially a useful tool both for managing educational institutions and for gaining access to teaching materials. For developing countries, teaching computer skills to youngsters may benefit inward investment. But on the other hand, as educational policy-makers for schools — notably those in developed countries — have become more insistent on measuring benefits of ICTs in terms of academic results, there is a lack of evidence that using ICTs actually boosts schoolchildren’s performance. One recent study found no evidence that the use of ICT produced better educational results.

Conversely, ICTs in education seem to hold much promise in expanding access to education to those who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity to learn and train. In universities in particular, there is evidence that ICTs have a valuable contribution to make. Well-designed ICTs can allow educators to reach new groups of potential students, particularly mature students, lifelong learners, students with physical disabilities, students in employment and students who are far from education centres. It is notable though, that endeavours by universities in developed countries to boost their incomes through distance teaching have largely failed to generate much profit, so the benefits are perhaps better measured in terms of increasing access to education, as well as a number of spin-offs such as the development of increasingly sophisticated ICT learning materials.

In developing countries, electronically delivered courses may make the difference between some education and none at all for people in remote rural areas. For aid donors, it is thus especially worthwhile to invest in opportunities for remote learning. ICTs are most likely to be cost-effective when used to reach very large numbers of students (a common challenge in developing countries); when used for research; and when used by administrators. It would be a mistake to think though, that making computers available is adequate as a one-time investment. Maintaining ICT-based learning projects involves both heavy initial costs to prepare teaching materials, and recurrent costs to replace hardware and software.

Not surprisingly, developing countries tend to have far fewer computers per student than richer countries. In the United States, the ratio of students to computers dropped from 125 to 1 in 1983 to 5 to 1 in 2000. One assessment of computers in classrooms in developing countries found that Costa Rica had an average of between 53 and 73 students per computer in its schools, while Chile had 68 to 137 students per machine.

Those who live on 1 USD a day cannot afford to pay 1 USD per minute to use the Internet

While the benefits of access to knowledge and information are proven, and it is recognized that education is an important driver of economic growth, the fundamental hurdles to be overcome in underprivileged societies are still infrastructure, cost, and access to computers and to relevant content. For these to be overcome, much needs to be done to help countries make access possible, through availability of computers, training of teachers, and the provision of low-cost Internet access.

One of the most important differences between countries is the availability of hardware. In the developed world, youngsters tend to have better access at home than at school. In Sweden, for example, a survey of 15 year-olds in 2000 found that 90 per cent had almost daily access to computers at home, but only 37 per cent at school. In Latvia, by contrast, only 15 per cent of 15 year-olds had near-daily access at home, and a mere 5 per cent at school. At university level, computer ownership is almost universal in richer countries. In developing countries, it is far lower (see Figure 1). This inevitably affects the ways ICT can be applied.


Getting the best from ICTs depends on several variables, including the appropriate design of software and hardware; the training and attitude of instructors; and the realization that different students have different requirements. It also requires a willingness to experiment: effective use of ICTs in education and training is likely to require quite different pedagogical techniques from traditional classroom teaching. These will probably take a long time to devise and disseminate.

Perhaps the most important lesson to take into account is that what works in a country with high levels of computer access and low telephone costs will not necessarily transfer to somewhere with few computers and expensive connection charges. The potential for using ICTs well in education and in building human capital depends on a number of factors that differ from one country to another, and especially between developed and developing countries. It is important for countries to bear these differences in mind when making investments.


2. The nature of the information society: A developing world perspective

This article is based on a presentation and paper prepared by Mr Madanmohan Rao, ICT Consultant and Author (India). Mr Rao’s paper charts the industry and instrument aspects of ICTs in developing nations, using a comparative framework he has developed over the years, called the “8 Cs” of the digital economy: connectivity, content, community, commerce, culture, capacity, cooperation and capital. This framework is described briefly in the article above. More information is available at

There are two ways of looking at ICTs: as an instrument, and as an industry. As an instrument, affordable and usable ICTs can indeed transform the way societies work, entertain, study, govern and live — at the individual, organizational, sector, vocational and national levels. As an industry, ICTs represent a major growing economic sector covering hardware, software, telecommunications/datacom and consulting services.

Through both lenses — industry and instrument — the performance of developing nations lags behind that of developed nations, but interesting patterns of variation and pockets of excellence are emerging. For instance, countries like India and the Philippines have ICT industries that are exporting software and attracting outsourcing contracts, but they also have looming digital divides where ICTs are not neither accessible nor affordable as instruments for a majority of the population.

Table 1 — The “8 Cs” of the information society

  ICTs as an instrument ICTs as an industry
Connectivity  How affordable and widespread are ICTs (e.g. PCs, Internet access, software) for the common citizen?  Does the country have ICT manufacturing industries for hardware, software, datacom solutions and services?
Content Is there useful content (foreign and local) for citizens to use in their daily lives? Is content being generated in local languages and localised interfaces? Is this being accessed/used abroad?
Community Are there online/offline forums where citizens can discuss ICT and other issues of concern? Is the country a hub of discussion and forums for the worldwide ICT industry?
Commerce Is there infrastructure (technical, legal) for e-commerce for citizens, businesses and government? How much commerce is transacted electronically? Does the country have indigenous ecommerce technology and services? Are these being exported?
Capacity Do citizens and organizations have the human resources capacity (technical, managerial, policy and legal) to effectively harness ICTs for daily use? Does the country have the human resources capacity (technical, managerial, policy, legal) to create and export ICTs?
Culture Is there a forward-looking, open, progressive culture at the level of policy-makers, businesses, educators, citizens and the media in opening up access to ICTs and harnessing them? Or is there nervousness and phobia about the cultural and political impacts of ICTs? Are there technical experts, entrepreneurs and managers pro-active and savvy enough to create local companies and take them global?
Cooperation Is there adequate cooperation between citizens, businesses, academics, NGOs and policy-makers to create a favourable climate for using ICTs? Is there a favourable regulatory environment in the country for creating ICT companies, and links with the diaspora population?
Capital Are there enough financial resources to invest in ICT infrastructure and education? Is there a domestic venture capital industry; is it investing abroad as well? How many international players are active in the local private equity market? Are there stock markets for public listing?

While analysing the impact and potential of ICTs by economic sector is a useful first step to overcoming the divide between developing and developed nations, it misses a crucial factor: ICTs like the Internet cannot be interpreted merely as digital forms of telecommunications, or as mere computers, or as media outlets. Many early well-intentioned ICT projects in developing countries have not meet with the success they might have because they were too technology-centric or stopped merely at the installation phase of computers. The information society is not just about connectivity to the global information infrastructure, but about the content that is accessible, the communities that congregate online and offline, the embedded and emerging cultural attitudes, the commercial and other motives behind such activities, an attitude of cooperation and lifelong learning, and a capacity for creating and governing such information spaces. The information society is not just about passively using “black box” technologies, but about actively creating and shaping the underlying technical, information and service infrastructure. Thus, a more powerful framework is needed which can contextualize ICT diffusion, usage and creation with respect to these attributes.

Coupled with these two aspects of ICTs (usage and creation), the “8 Cs” approach (see Table 1) can help to tease apart some of the key challenges in implementing the vision of knowledge societies, such as increasing ICT diffusion and adoption, scaling up ICT pilot projects, ensuring sustainability and viability of ICT initiatives, creating ICT industries, and systematically analysing research on the global information society. The role of local stakeholders, multilateral agencies, donor institutions and the development community is highlighted.

 3. Network Security: Protecting our critical infrastructures 

This article is based on a paper prepared by Seymour Goodman, Professor College of Computing & The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology. The other two authors, Ms. Pam Hassebroek and Mr. Hans Klein, also work at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  More information is available at

Cyberspace—the Internet and other computer-based networks—is becoming one of the most important infrastructures that characterize modern societies. Among the networks of cyberspace are systems that control and manage other infrastructures such as banking, emergency services, energy delivery, and many transportation and military systems. Thus, many regions’ economic and social stability may depend on these networks. The computer-communications networks of cyberspace are the underlying technological bases that will enable all “visions of the information society.”

Dependencies on networks for communication and business operations continue to grow along with the growth of cyberspace. Today, the Internet in particular, which has grown without any planning or central organization, is a vast network of networks. As of 1989, the Internet interconnected around 20 countries and 100,000 hosts. The majority of those hosts were located in the United States. As of early 2002, there were hundreds of millions of host computers[1] and perhaps at least a half billion users worldwide[2]. More than half of the users are now located outside the U.S. and perhaps a quarter outside of the OECD countries. It is increasingly beyond the scope of single nations to control users who would inflict damage to or via the systems of cyberspace.

Destructive acts using computer networks have cost billions of dollars and increasingly threaten the resources of network-connected critical infrastructures. Threats[3] to network infrastructures are potentially extensive not only as their value increases in terms of the infrastructures themselves, the value of hosted services, and the value of what is located on them, but also because of their widespread and low-cost access. These infrastructures of cyberspace are vulnerable due to three kinds of failure: complexity, accident, and hostile intent. However, we lack a comprehensive understanding of these vulnerabilities—largely because of the extraordinary complexities of many of the problems, and perhaps from too little effort to acquire this understanding. But there is ample evidence that vulnerabilities are there: examples of all three kinds of failure abound, and vulnerabilities are found almost every time people seriously look for them.

Within this vast, complex cyberspace system, it is so simple to connect that users of today’s systems require few skills and little understanding of the underpinnings. Thus, we require not only technical protections but also an awareness and alertness on the part of all users to the dangers inherent in the use of any system connected to a network. Attacks so far have been limited. However, many believe that it is only a matter of time before prolonged, multifaceted, coordinated attacks are going to find those network vulnerabilities and exploit them to produce serious consequences. Prudence dictates better protection against accidents and attacks before things get much worse. All realizations of “visions of the information society” are going to be severely limited if the people in that society do not trust or feel secure with the underlying infrastructures.

Alertness to the dangers requires protections that can stay abreast of changing attack modes. An essential part of a defence strategy is continual network monitoring and innovation in monitoring techniques to minimize the potential for damage from the actions of cybercriminals. However, there are multiple stages of defence and a cycle of understanding, which is a complex system in itself. The overlapping stages of prevention and/or thwarting an attack, incident management, reconstituting after an attack, and improving defender performance by analysis and redesign are essential to understanding the elements of each network intrusion attempt. Invariably, gaining this understanding involves some ability to trace the route of attack to the source so that the attacker can be identified. International cooperation can help to bring about success in this effort, in situations where it would be impossible otherwise.

Faced with the possibility of disruption of critical infrastructures in ways that could have serious consequences, governments should be expected to implement prudent defence plans. Each country should first identify those infrastructures and their interdependencies that are critical to its survival and to its social and economic well-being. Planning for specific defences of these identified infrastructures may usefully include both passive[4] and active defence forms.

Since an infrastructure system is typically a mix of public and private ownership, the various owners are likely to have different motivations for and roles in such planning for its protection. Private owners will seek solutions that maintain revenues and the confidence of their markets. Governments will pursue policies that focus on longer-term aspects of protection, seeking to protect their economies and national security, to maintain law and order, and to reduce cumulative losses.

The combination of diversity in its users and its international dimension contributes much to the promise of cyberspace networks and, at the same time, creates the most difficult problems. Its international character is central to the “vision” for many of the network’s visionaries. And this characteristic creates a requirement of international cooperation for increasing the security of the network’s infrastructures. Defence policies and practices must apply globally to be effective. The ways in which cooperation can help to increase security are numerous, but in this paper, we focus on some of the most clear and expedient avenues to curtailment of criminal activity. These activities include: standardization, information sharing, halting attacks in progress, legal coordination, and providing aid to developing nations.

In many aspects of network connection, the issue of standards offers both an opportunity for improvement in security and an opportunity for clearer avenues to abuse. Standard protocols, applications, workstation and server configurations all play a role in providing either a system of trust or a platform for criminals. Security as a clear and present priority for network operation needs to be a prime focus for future development standards and remedial activity.

Information sharing is required in order to develop security standards for successful product development and effective standard security practices. International collaboration in all aspects of network operations can help to ensure the best possible protection for the valuable assets of its users. A cyberattack in progress can be minimized by the widespread communication of such an event to users and system operators. Information sharing is also essential in order to locate and prosecute cyber criminals.

One form of international cooperation that has been much discussed is the potential for harmonization of laws among countries that can help to prevent cybercrime and provide a deterrent to cybercriminals. Criminals may currently circumvent jurisdictions and places with strong technical and legal barriers in order to find the cracks in the system where it is safe to create problems. We need to close these cracks.

All of these forms of cooperation work better, when all nations are equally capable of carrying their share of responsibilities. At present, this is not the case. There are many countries where people with high-level technical skills are not present in adequate numbers. A cooperative effort among nations can assist with these needs for training and equipment.

Achieving global coordination in these areas is not an easy task. It requires legal and administrative policies in order to create a framework for global interaction. Policies include setting well-defined boundaries for legal actions, the creation of an international organization, and possibly a multilateral treaty. Cybercrime and the potential for cyberterrorism not only creates a requirement for intergovernmental machinery, but, given our growing dependencies on the networks, adds a sense of urgency to the task.

Given the urgency of the problem as well as the difficulty of constructing global frameworks, it is appealing to look for shortcuts. One attractive alternative would employ private coordination, perhaps based on the model of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). However, private groups cannot contribute directly in active defence or in legal harmonization. In addition, privatization allows a policy process that may lack proper international representation and democratic participation. Such deficiencies in an international organization could create barriers to effectiveness in the process of addressing network security.

We believe that a necessary way to proceed is through international, intergovernmental coordination. The types of cooperation described above suggest a highly interactive partnership in pursuit of common goals. We present in this paper what we conceive as the ideal model for such a construction. We see four required features in this model: First, all cooperating countries would share a common baseline perception of what constitutes criminal behavior in cyberspace. Second, each of the governments of the world would have substantial competence to deal with the problem of preventing, thwarting, etc. and punishing attacks on cyber systems. This includes capabilities and policies in passive defence to provide effective security within each government’s jurisdiction. Third, each would have substantial capability in active defence, and a competent national authority for engaging in active defence. Finally, international responses to transnational attacks would be covered under a near-universal umbrella convention that would permit timely action under established procedures. While initiatives exist in international cooperation to increase security, the present reality is still far from this ideal model.

[3] “Vulnerabilities” are weaknesses that can be exploited. “Threats” do the exploiting. Threats are most often human and hostile, but could also be natural or accidental, e.g., a weather-induced power outage that exploits the vulnerability of no back-up power supply.

[4] Passive defence is essentially target hardening. Examples include internal use of various technologies and products, such as firewalls and cryptography, and procedures to protect the assets owned by an individual or organization. Active defence, in contrast, imposes serious risk or penalty to the attacker.


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