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Global indicators workshop on community access to ICTs

Mexico City
16-19 November 2004


Between the 16th and 19th of November 2004 the ITU, together with the Mexican Ministry of Transport and Communications, organized the Global indicators workshop on community access to ICTs. Over 110 participants – including 32 women - from almost 60 different countries participated.  

The discussion on access to Information and Communication Technologies is critical particularly in light of the discussion on the information society and the recognition that ICTs are an important tool for development, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The initiative to organize a global workshop in order to identify a set of community access indicators is part of the ITU’s overall responsibility in tracking Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). It has been widely acknowledged that traditional indicators alone - such as the number of fixed telephone lines - are not sufficiently able to identify the extend of the digital divide. Since the vast majority of households in developing nations do not have modern ICTs such as computers and the Internet, community access will play an important role in providing citizens with access to ICTs, a prerequisite for participating in the information society and reaping its benefits. This assumption is supported by surveys in developing countries that show that public facilities are a primary location of Internet access. 

As the only source of globally comparable ICT/telecom statistics, ITU has a clear mandate to develop community access indicators. The workshop also present a major step towards the implementation of the goals and objectives articulated in the World Summit on the Information Society’s (WSIS) Plan of Action, adopted at the first phase of the Summit. In particular it responded to the Plan of Action’s call for the evaluation and follow-up through comparable statistical indicators, “including community connectivity indicators”.

The workshop built upon the results of the Regional Indicators Workshop on Community Access to ICTs that took place in Mexico in October 2003. Its main objective was the revision of community access indicators, definitions, collection, methodology and dissemination. The workshop featured presentations (see agenda) and open discussions on a number of technical and methodological topics as well as presentations by participants describing national experiences. (All of these presentations are available as documents).

In preparation to the workshop, and to assess the current status of community access indicators the ITU sent a questionnaire (based on recommendations made by the 2003 regional meeting) to all regulators, ministries, and national statistical offices. While some 80 countries responded to the questionnaire, half of them noted that no data were available. The data provided by the remaining (some 40) countries was partially incomplete and showed several inconsistencies. This suggests that while many countries have realized the importance of community access, there is a lack of internationally comparable and harmonized indicators. The collection process also shows that in some countries there is a lack of cooperation amongst the different agencies involved in ICTs and statistics. The importance of formal and informal cooperation processes was highlighted. Only very few countries have actually started to collect information on Public Internet Access Centre (PIACs) as defined in the questionnaire. This conclusion was reinforced by the presentations and discussions during the meeting. Where national initiatives and projects to monitor and track community access exist, these are usually guided by specific geographic, societal and economic characteristics and are often not internationally comparable. 

The workshop was able to identify a core set of indicators (see Community access indicators), as well as a list of supplementary indicators (see Supplementary indicators) that should help countries in their choice of further inclusion of indicators. This is a major achievement in that it is the first step towards improving statistical coverage of community access. Apart from guiding ITU in its data collection efforts, the list of indicators provides national regulators, ministries and statistical offices responsible for compiling market statistics with a clear guideline on what kind of data they should collect. 

Following the meeting, the ITU has been requested to promote the adoption of community access indicators agreed upon at this workshop. This and a number of other proposals established during the workshop have produced a clear set of recommendations.

It is further hoped that the identification of a clear set of indicators and the workshop recommendations will raise the global awareness of community access indicators and increase  top level policy support to track community access.


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