Tag Archives: ITU

ICTs, sustainability and development


LaunchI am delighted to see my chapter on ICTs, sustainability and development just published in the ITU’s new book on ICT-Centric Economic Growth, Innovation and Job Creation launched yesterday at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Buenos Aires.  This was part of a fascinating project that emerged when Dr. Ahmed Sharafat (Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran) and Dr. Eun-Ju Kim (from the ITU) brought together a group of academics from across the world to explore issues around the ways through which ICTs can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing especially on economic growth and employment.  We held several meetings together over the last year, and particularly met up for a fortnight in Geneva in January 2017 to work through ideas and share drafts of manuscripts.

IMG_8860 smallIt is the first time I have actually worked on such a collectively authored project, and its publication says much about the willingness of all involved to collaborate supportively together under the leadership of Ahmed and Bill Lehr, who was later brought on board to co-edit the book.  Each of us took the lead on a single chapter, but everyone contributed to the ideas contained within the book.  The process of negotiation and discussion around the concepts and ideas within each chapter was fascinating, especially since it required us to hone our arguments very finely and precisely.  Most of the contributors were economists, and although at times I struggled with accepting some of their arguments, I know that their contributions very much improved the chapter on which I led.  Moreover, I am very grateful to Ahmed as editor, for letting me write what I did, since it enabled me to craft my most critical piece of work on the sustainability of the ICT sector.

ICT4SDGThe second chapter (on which I led) examines the interface between ICTs and sustainability, especially focusing on environmental issues and the conditions that need to be in place for ICT initiatives to be sustainable socially and economically. It focuses specifically on the importance of universal infrastructure, the affordability of technologies, the need for appropriate skills and awareness, and the importance of locally relevant content. For these to be delivered, the chapter emphasises that those who develop policies and implement programmes and projects to use ICTs to promote sustainable development need to address issues of empowerment, focus on the needs of the poorest, develop innovative technological solutions and new business models, legislate new kinds of regulation through which governments facilitate the ICT and telecommunication sector, and ensure that there is effective security and resilience within the systems being developed. The chapter concludes with a brief analysis of the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in implementing such initiatives.

Where I think it makes the most significant new arguments is at the interface between ICTs and sustainability.  It does this in three main contexts:

  1. First, although this is indeed a book published by the ITU, a UN agency, and we therefore had to be very careful in our arguments, the chapter does nevertheless challenge some of the assumptions behind, and implementation of, the SDGs. In particular it draws attention to the tensions between sustainability (implying maintenance or stability) and development (implying change or growth).
  2. Second, it provides a strong critique of the environmental credentials of the ICT sector.  For example, while it acknowledges that some companies have sought to show their environmental concerns through delivering on carbon emissions,  it notes that there has been no comprehensive and rigorous environmental audit of the sector as a whole.  In particular, I recall some challenging discussions during our work on the book about the increasing amount of debris accumulating in space as a result of satellite launches, and I am pleased that colleagues eventually allowed me to include an, albeit toned down, section on this, which argues that space pollution should indeed be included as an environmental impact.
  3. Third, the chapter argues strongly that many of the main business models adopted by the private sector in rolling out ICTs are fundamentally unsustainable.  It is therefore contradictory to assert that ICTs are an important vehicle through which the Sustainable Development Goals can be implemented (even if it is accepted that these can indeed reduce poverty).  To give but one example, the mobile phone and app/content sectors function as an ever increasing spiral of unsustainability.  New devices require new apps and operating systems, which then in turn require another generation of new devices with more memory and functionality.  Hence, instead of the old landline telephones that lasted for years, most people are now encouraged to purchase new upgraded phones every couple of years.  This is unsustainability built in by the very design of the technology and business models, and it is enhanced and encouraged by the companies’ focus on marketing, modernity and fashion.

Several case studies to support these chapters are also included in the book, but sadly two of mine had to be excluded because of space, and so I will shortly be posting them separately here on my blog.

Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in this co-created book, many of whom have now become good friends.  It was a privilege to work with you all on this project, and I am so grateful to colleagues in the ITU for inviting me to participate.

 

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Making money from meeting the SDGs? An overarching approach to sustainable development


I am delighted to have been asked to moderate the session on “Making money from meeting the SDGs?” at ITU Telecom World in Bangkok on Monday 14th November (4:45 PM – 6:00 PM, Jupiter 10), although I wonder a little why I have been chosen for this task given my past criticisms of the SDGs!  Perhaps the “?” in the session title will give me a little freedom to explore some of the many challenges and complexities in this theme.  Following in the footsteps of the Millennium Development Goals (2000), the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) still generally focus on the idea that economic growth will eliminate poverty; indeed, they assert that poverty can truly be ended.  This is a myth, and a dangerous one. For those who define poverty in a relative sense, poverty will always be with us.  It can certainly be reduced, but never ended.   It is therefore good to see the SDGs also focusing on social inclusion, with SDG 10 explicitly addressing inequality.  We need to pay much more attention to ways through which ICTs can thus reduce inequality, rather than primarily focusing on their contribution to economic growth, which has often actually led to increasing inequality.

This session will explore the implications of such tensions specifically for the role of ICT businesses in delivering the SDGs.  Key questions to be examined include:

  • How can the ICT sector contribute to accelerating the achievement of the SDGs by providing ICT-enabled solutions and building feasible business models?
  • Is the SDG agenda relevant for the ICT industry?
  • What roles should the ICT industry, and its corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments in particular, play in working towards the SDGs?
  • Can the SDG framework provide an opportunity to accelerate transformative ICT-enabled solutions around new solutions like big data or IoT?

Underlying these are difficult issues about the ethics of making money from development, and the extent to which the ICT sector is indeed sustainable.  All too often, the private sector, governments and even civil society are now using the idea of “development” to build their ICT interests, rather than actually using ICTs to contribute to development understood as reducing inequalities; we increasingly have “development for ICTs” (D4ICT) rather than “ICTs for development” (ICT4D).  To be sure, businesses have a fundamentally important role in contributing to economic growth, but there is still little agreement, for example, on how best to deliver connectivity to the poorest and most marginalized, so that inequality can be reduced. As my forthcoming book argues, we need to reclaim ICTs truly for development in the interests of the poorest and most marginalized.

We have a great panel with whom to explore these difficult questions.  Following opening remarks by Chaesub Lee (Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU), we will dive straight into addressing the above questions with the following panelists (listed in alphabetical order of first names):

  • Astrid Tuminez (Senior Director, Government Affairs. Microsoft)
  • Lawrence Yanovitch (President of GSMA Foundation)
  • Luis Neves (Chairman Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), and Climate Change and Sustainability Officer, Executive Vice President, at Deutsche Telekom Group)
  • Ola Jo Tandre (Director and Head of Social Responsibility, Telenor ASA, Norway)
  • Tomas Lamanauskas (Group Director Public Policy, VimpelCom).

Magic happens when people from different backgrounds are brought together to discuss challenging issues.  This session will therefore not have any formal presentations, but will instead seek to engage the panelists in discussion amongst themselves and with the audience.  We will generate new ideas that participants will be able to take away and apply in their everyday practices.  Looking forward to seeing you on the Monday afternoon of Telecom World in Bangkok!

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ICTs for the SDGs: economic agendas


group-smallThe ITU is preparing a new book, provisionally to be entitled “ICT4SDGs: Economic Growth, Innovation and
Job Creation” in advance of the WTDC meeting in Buenos Aires in October 2017 http://www.itu.int/net/events/eventdetails.asp… . This has been explored in some detail over the last two days at a fascinating discussion convened in Geneva.

sdg-groupI have been invited to lead on a 6,000 word chapter, provisionally entitled “Sustainability in Development: Critical Elements” that has an initial summary as follows: “the chapter identifies how ICTs engage with the sustainability agenda and the various elements of the ecosystem (such as: education, finance/capital, infrastructure, policy, market, culture/environment, opportunities) and the stakeholders that are indispensable for ensuring resilient and sustainable development activities in developing countries in spite of some chronic shortages coupled with fast changing and fluid situations that can negatively hamper the efforts”.

I want this chapter very much to be a collective, bottom-up effort, and am exploring various collective ways of generating content – although this is hugely difficult given the tight word limit! At this stage, it would be great to receive suggestions as to (a) what content the chapter should focus on, and (b) examples of case studies of successes and failures with respect to the use of ICTs for sustainable development. Please share any thoughts with me – before the end of September!

For those who may be unfamiliar with my own critical comments on the linkages between ICTs and the SDG agenda do see https://unwin.wordpress.com/…/icts-and-the-failure-of-the-…/, and on the abuse of the term ecosystem https://unwin.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/icts-and-ecosystems/ . Rest assured, though, that the chapter for the ITU will reflect very different perspectives, and I hope that it will indeed represent the interests and concerns of the wider ICT4D community.

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Opening ceremony of ITU Plenipotentiary 2014 in Busan


Just thought I would share some images from the recently completed opening ceremony of the ITU’s 2014 Plenipotentiary meeting in Busan.  This featured very sophisticated presentations of the Republic of Korea’s achievements in the field of ICTs, as well as the beauty of its traditional culture and dance.  South Korea is certainly an absolutely fascinating place, in which we have been made to feel most welcome.  It was good to see the emphasis placed on the use of ICTs by people with disabilities, and also Hamadoun Touré’s commitment to finding ways through which ICTs can be used to help resolve the current Ebola crisis in western Africa (see my regularly updated blog post on ways through which ICTs can indeed contribute).

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Sorry I could not post these live during the event, but the WiFi system was down while President Park Geun-hye was in the room.  Let’s hope we all have a fruitful and productive Plenipot meeting.

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Multistakeholderism and consensus decision making in ICT4D


ICANNOne of the fundamental challenges facing ICANN, and regularly articulated at its recent 49th meeting in Singapore, is how to reach consensus amongst the many different stakeholders with interests in the future of the Internet.  Having been doing research over the last 15 years on how to ensure success in multi-stakeholder partnerships (see for example my recent 2013 post, and an older 2012 post on partnerships in education) as well as working with a range of groups on consensus decision making, I find these discussions fascinating, not least for their theatrical quality but also for the apparent lack of knowledge exhibited on the very extensive research that has already been done on managing multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Two  intersecting themes seem relevant, not only to ICANN, but also more widely to the many other ongoing international debates on global governance, particularly with reference to ICTs. These are hugely complex issues, far too challenging to resolve in a simple blog post, but what I want to do here is summarise what I see as being the main issues that require resolution:

  • Multi-stakeholderism representation.  I have to admit hugely to disliking the term multistakeholderism, despite the fact that I frequently plead for people to use the term “multi-stakeholder” rather than “public-private” to refer to the kinds of partnership that are necessary to deliver effective ICT for development initiatives.  “Multi-stakeholder” is preferable because it emphasises that such initiatives require a more diverse set of stakeholders than just the private and public sectors, and that they particularly need to involve civil society. Most research on multi-stakeholder partnerships has focused on how to bring partners together to deliver particular initiatives at a national or local scale, and far less in the context of reaching international agreements (although see Jens Martens’ important work on the latter). The use of the term “multi-stakeholder” has nevertheless been clearly recognised by ICANN (albeit defining it in a very particular way, as treating “the public sector, the private sector, and technical experts as peers”), but a fundamental challenge is to identify the means through which each group can, or should, be represented in international discussions on critical ICT issues.  Four issues seem particularly problematic and pertinent:
    • Defining multi-stakeholders groupings.  Most work on multi-stakeholder partnerships recognises a triadic typology of  “states”, the “private sector” and “civil society”.  However, there are additional types of entity over and beyond these that might be involved under these headings, including international organisations, foundations, and indeed user groups.  These are sometimes treated as sub-sets of civil society, but on other occasions as distinct entities in their own right that could be grouped into additional categories.
    • Numbers and scale.  In global bodies concerned with international treaties, such as UN bodies including the ITU, governments usually have the dominant say, albeit that this say is increasingly being challenged. It is relatively easy to choose the entities that represent governments – they are, after all, finite in number – but for the private sector and especially civil society it becomes much more problematic.  UNDESA’s integrated Civil Society Organizations (iSCO) System thus currently maintains a database of more than 24,000 entries (see also the UN Global Compact’s list).  How can representation from this diversity of stakeholders be included, especially when it is often unclear who exactly these civil society organisations represent?
    • Representative democracy.  Invariably it is only the larger and richer companies and civil society organisations that are able to participate in major international gatherings – often quite simply because of the cost of so doing – although many UN bodies do indeed welcome civil society participation once they have been recognised in some way as members.  In crafting such partnerships, and in line with the notion of representative democracy, there can be value in seeking to involve some kind of representative mechanism, whereby stakeholders elect from their membership people or institutions to speak on their behalf. This prevents the decision making process becoming too unwieldy, but those not elected onto the “Board” can feel aggrieved and not-represented.
    • Governance structures.  The mechanisms for selecting representatives also depend heavily on the kinds of governance structure that are deemed to be appropriate for the purpose in hand. Even here there are difficulties because someone has to determine these criteria in the first place.  At a simplistic level, it would be possible to imagine a multi-stakeholder decision making body made up of a set number of members from each of the three key sectors of “governments”, “companies” and “civil society”.  Within this, there would then need to be mechanisms for determining how the elections would take place, and what the constituencies should be.  In the ITU, for example, members of the Council and the Radio Regulation Board are elected based upon regional groupings.
  • Consensus decision making and democratic representation.  One of the most fascinating aspects of seeking to reach global agreement on particular issues is the choice of the process that is used to seek consensus. When combined with representative mechanisms, most consensus building models use an aggregative process, whereby agreement is sought at one level (for example the “local”), and then representatives from that level  meet at a higher level (such as the “regional”) to seek wider consensus.  This can be a very effective mechanism for reaching consensus, but the ways in which the governance of such structures operate can lead to very different outcomes.  This is highly pertinent to discussions about governance of the Internet and ICTs. Six main principles and issues seem particularly pertinent here:
    • Consensus building requires good will on behalf of all of those involved.  Put simply, if there is not a desire to reach agreement on the part of some of those involved, then no amount of skilled negotiation will reach a successful outcome.  The first stage of any consensus building process must therefore be the need to convict all participants of the benefits of reaching a consensus.  Ultimately, those not willing to commit to this need to be excluded in the interests of reaching agreement among those who are willing to engage in the process.
    • Generally speaking, it often makes sense to try to reach agreement on the most contentious issues at the lowest/local scale, because most time can usually be devoted to reaching consensus here.  For example, if it is expected that different ethnic groups have very different views on a subject, then it makes sense for the difficult issues to be resolved at the lowest scale that can combine these multiple different ethnic perspectives.  However, this does not always work, since unexpected disagreements can emerge later in the process, which can prevent the final reaching of a consensus.
    • Moderation of the consensus building process requires great skill and patience.  All too often, inexperienced chairs or moderators are charged with seeking to reach agreement among a particular constituency, and this can rapidly lead to dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement with the entire process.
    • The choice of representatives to carry forward the discussion at a higher level is critical.  Such people need to combine excellent negotiation skills with empathy for the different perspectives that they need to represent.  They also need to be trusted by their constituencies.
    • Despite a tendency to wish to return to the lowest level to get final agreement on the principles agreed at a higher level, this often leads to the unraveling of the process.  This is largely because consensus decision making requires skillful bargaining, and not everyone involved at the earliest stages of a process may be aware of the issues that emerge later in the process that require resolution.  It is, though, particularly useful if the higher level discussions are open to participation from anyone who wishes to be an observer from the lower levels in the process, since this can serve as a useful check on the probity of the representatives and negotiators.
    • Ultimately, those involved in building consensus need to adhere to the fundamental negotiating principle that they should focus particularly on “What can’t you live with; what can’t you live without“!

If, and it is a big if, the global Interent governance agenda is seen as being concerned with reaching agreement amongst “governments”, “private sector companies” and “civil society”, then drawing on the above two main alternative model structures can be conceptualised:

  • Model A – initial consensus building at a national level
    • The lowest level discussions take place in national forums that bring together representatives of governments, the private sector and civil society
    • National representatives (not necessarily drawn from governments) then meet to reach regional consensuses, such as for East, North, Southern and West Africa.
    • Finally, representatives from these global regions meet to thrash out global agreements.
  • Model B – initial consensus at a sectoral level
    • The lowest level discussions take place in regional sector-specific global forums one in each region (such as East, North, Southern and West Africa) for representatives of governments, another for the private sector and a third for civil society.
    • Representatives from each of these regional sector meetings (or indeed subdivisions within them) then meet to reach a global consensus.  For example, there would be a global private sector meeting bringing together regional private sector representatives, and similar fora for governments and for civil society.
    • Finally, representative of each of the three main groupings meet at a global meeting to bring together the three broad swathes of governments, the private sector and civil society.

To date, it would seem that Model B has often been the preferred modality of consensus building in discussions about Internet and ICT governance. The ITU, for example, holds regional meetings in advance of its major conferences, where it seeks to reach agreement on key issues.

Significantly, most of the major international bodies working in the field of ICTs and the Internet claim in some way to be multi-stakeholder. However, the driving force for each entity usually tends to be from one or the other sectors, be they governments, the private sector or civil society.  Against this context, broadly speaking, ICANN (a private sector, non-profit corporation) has tended to focus on the interests of the private sector, the IGF as a multi-stakeholder policy dialogue (purportedly supporting the UN Secretary General) is widely seen as being the main vehicle for civil society participation, and the ITU is the UN agency generally accepted as being a predominantly governmental body (although defining itself as a “public-private partnership”).  A real challenge is how to bring these together – or whether indeed there is actually real interest in so doing.  Attempts to create a truly global forum, including the ill-fated Global Alliance for ICTs and Development (GAID) have largely failed, although the WSIS+10 process led by the ITU and involving other UN agencies continues to strive to bring a wide range of participants together.

This post is already too long, and barely scratches the surface of these complex issues!  However, we have to find a way to stop holding the same conversations in different circles, and actually create structures and consensuses that serve the interests of the poorest and most marginalised!

 

 

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Broadband in the Pacific


The Pacific Broadband Forum 2012, convened by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Oganisation and the International Telecommunications Union, together with regional partners PITA, PiRRC and SPC, is currently being hosted by the Fijian Ministry of Communications on Denarau Island, Fiji.  This morning’s session provided a wealth of information about the current status of broadband roll-out across the region.  Sadly, my fingers and brain were insufficiently co-ordinated to record everything that was said, but I hope that the following notes may be useful for those interested in ways through which ICTs are being developed in the region:

Cook Islands

  • No policy and regulations in place for broadband
  • There is a national ICT policy – based on 6 platforms
  • New national sustainable development plan – will have to align with this.
  • Legislation: 1989 Telecom Act; new draft bill in consultation; SPAM act 2008; electronics transactions bill; evidence act (needs to be updated); cyber crime legislation in development. But most need training in implementation.
  • Many challenges – budget, lack of implementation capacity, lack of consultation with stakeholders
  • Need to establish a regulator

Federated States of Micronesia

  • Connected with fibre optics with the Kwajalein to Guam (USA) since 2005 (spurs to Marshalls and elsewhere)
  • President Mori said need to connect all islands, and a regulator
  • 2007 ADB issued report on liberalisation, regulation and community service requirement
  • Hantru cable became operational in Pohnpei – eight 20 Gbps capacity to Guam; other islands are not yet connected.
  • Close links with World Bank who have conducted studies and due diligence
  • Optimising on current investments.
  • Debt servicing of DSDA loans that enabled what was originally done.
  • There will be sector reform to liberalise the market
  • Next challenges – to endorse the policy and the FSM Congres will need to endorse World Bank Assistance and the Telecommunications Sector Reform.

Kiribati

  • 33 atolls over 3.5 million km2; population of only 112,000
  • relies on satellite
  • fixed line 4.14%, mobile 1.04%; internet 2.07%
  • prices of telephony and internet are very high
  • monopolistic market TSKL sole ICT provider
  • World Bank funding for ICT review and advice
    • Policy and legal support
    • Regulatory support
    • Outer islands connectivity support
    • Project management support
  • 9 telecentres funded by government; PACRICS provided internet connectivity in 10 secondary school

Marshall Islands

  • 68,000 pop, 34 islands
  • broadband – 2 urban cities have cable installed; gsm sites in four islands. Telecentres. DAMA sites.  Aim to cove all country by end of 2012.
  • ICT policy should be in place by end of August and will provide for market liberalisation, regulator, cybercrime
  • Only 1% of submarine cable in being used
  • Remote area is getting connected for e-health, e-learning and climate change
  • Difficulties: connecting the unconnected; teamwork; perfect competition; consumer satisfaction; move small
  • Challenges
    • Costs of backbone
    • Geographical challenges for operations
    • Quality and reliability
    • Costs of bandwidth
  • 2008 National ICT Policy
    • NICTA regulator
    • Aims to have efficient ICT infrastructure as backbone
    • Open competition
  • 2012 National Broadband policy
  • LNG Fibre cable project announced – cable is piggy backing on the pipe

Nauru

  • Population less than 10,000
  • Regulator – enabling environment
  • Challenge of ability to provide broadband – only one service provider.  Bandwidth to increase by 30% in next month.  Talking with O3b to increase
  • If you cry hard enough you are bound to be heard.
  • Need to lay the foundations and have regulations in place
  • Major reforms in last decade in telecoms sector.  Telecom Act 2005 established regulator in 2006 which introduced competition
  • Competition has worked even in a small island
  • PM Chairs national IT committee – it is important to have leadership from the top
  • Draft masterplan for broadband supported by ITU
  • Universal access policy
  • Shared infrastructure
  • c. 95% coverage
  • Looking at 2nd submarine cable

Niue

  • Just one island – the Rock (260 sq kms); population 1600.
  • Telcom Niue – sole provider and regulator; two ISPs
  • Fixed line 60%; mobile 30% (only introduced July 2011); broadband 1% (introduced April this year)
  • Bills before Parliament (SPAM, Cybercrime, Draft ICT Policy)
  • Issues for Niue: very small market means lack of service and difficulties of setting prices; satellite bandwidth, but costs are too high for us; capacity building.
  • Free wifi access – arrangement with manager of top level domain nu – to develop access on the island.
  • OLPC has not really worked that well – laptops breakdown very easily and no back-up; and not managed properly. Children took them home and did not bring them to school except when they were broken.
  • Future plans – looking to develop services.

Palau

  • 240 islands; population 20,000
  • mobile coverage 98%; internet subscribers 6%; fixed broadband 2%
  • 113 mile long underground and submarine SONET cable connecting 3 islands.  Using VSAT to reach remote islands.  Radio also used in isolated areas for emergency.
  • PNCC (Palau National Communications Corporation) provides the majority of communications services
  • Palau Mobile Corporation commenced operations in 2006 and offers GSM services (3G hopefully will roll out next year).
  • Palau Telecoms licensed for Digital TV and internet – yet to start mobile service
  • Skyfy yet to offer services, but is licensed
  • Mobile services can reach 98% with mobile density being 80%
  • 2011-2014 Palau National ICT Policy (thanks to ITU)
  • Expanding broadband and international fibre optic cable connectivity

Solomon Islands

  • Cable plan 2013
  • Setting up 50 GSM sites
  • 3G services launched by Telekom and Bemobile
  • establishment of universal access fund policy
  • costs high

Tuvalu

  • No-cable islands dreaming for cable
  • Population 11,000; landlines 1182, mobiles 2525, Internet 4000
  • Monopoly
  • Current activities: e-government, national ICT policy, cyberlegislation, licensing
  • Challenges: funding, human capacity, geography (500,000 sq miles), high costs of ICT, poor energy supply
  • Plans: strengthening outer island connectivity, disaster risk reduction (very vulnerable – one tsunami would take us all across to Fiji), offsite backup

Vanuatu

  • Been challenged in court and politically, but has come through that as an independent regulator
    Minister was ‘in bed with’ one of the telcos and has now been taken off – so ICT responsibility is in the Prime Minister’s office.
  • Technical advisors funded by the World Bank and AusAid.
  • ICT for all (7 goals)
  • Very strong Universal Access policy in draft – has been sitting on Minister’s desk for a year – but will hopefully now go through (only raises funds from operators for specific projects)
  • Zero rate importation tax for all ICTs
  • 2015 access to broadband connectivity for 85% of population
  • Spectrum available 700 MHz LTE and 3G
  • Submarine cable being led by Interchange
  • Employment is growing in the sector – now 2500
  • Telcentres in Rensarie and Melsis high schools; Nebul and South West Bay health centres – need to provide many additional services in the centres.  Quite slow take up; importance of the manager; potential for agriculture.
  • All stakeholders must work carefully together
  • High schools and health centres are a priority
  • Using mapinfo to find the most cost effective way to deliver services

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Data on Internet and social media usage


One of the interesting things about the Internet is actually how difficult it is to find out detailed and accurate information about its usage, especially with respect to social media. The International Telecommunications Union does, though, provide some useful high level data.  Given all of the emphasis on the apparent ‘ubiquity’ of Internet use, these provide some very salient reminders that in 2011

  • some 35% of the world’s population use the Internet – which means that 65% still do not!
  • although 45% of Internet users are under 25, 75% of the world’s under-25s still do not use the Internet.
  • there are twice as many mobile-broadband as there are fixed-broadband subscribers across the world

It is not just connectivity, though, that matters.  The available bandwidth and speed of connectivity are also crucial.  The following ITU graph (click on image for larger version) thus illustrates the enormous contrasts that still exist in this respect:

Whereas more than 95% of fixed broadband connections in South Korea have advertised speeds of ≥ 10 Mbit/s, some 98% of connections in Ghana, Venezuela and Mongolia have speeds of ≤ 2 Mbit/s.

Of equal concern is the observation that the least developed countries are being left further and further behind in the race for digital connectivity.  In a striking report on the role of ICTs in the “least developed countries”, the ITU  shows this particularly graphically in the chart below (click on image for larger version), which illustrates the percentages of people who are Internet users:

This shows, for example, that the difference between the percentage of Internet users in the “developed” and the “least developed” countries in 2000 was only about 25 people per 100, whereas by 2010 it had leaped to more than 68 people per 100.  Despite growth in the number of Internet users in the developing countries, they were likewise still 50 people per 100 behind the “developed” countries in 2010.  The differences between rich and poor are thus getting dramatically bigger rather than lessening.

As 2012 gets underway, let us all commit ourselves more strongly than ever before to ensuring that these trends are reversed, and that the world’s poorest and most marginalised are indeed able to benefit from the ICTs that so many people living in the richest countries of the world now take for granted.

One aspect of data on Internet usage that I find particularly frustrating is the difficulty of finding accurate information on social media usage.  This is especially important when there is so much rhetoric about the ways in which such media are transforming social, economic, political and cultural life.  It seems to me that, once again, this may well be true of the world’s richest 10% or so of people, but is scarcely true of the majority!

Facebook, for example, is renowned for how little information it shares, with its statistics page only giving very sparse information about five categories of data, including the ‘fact’ that there are 800 million active users.  But what does “Active Users” mean?  According to Facebook it is people who have returned to the site in the last 30 days, although we are told that half of these (c.400 million) use Facebook every day.  If the world’s population is taken as being ‘approximately’ 6.984 billion, that means that about 1 in 17.46 people are using Facebook every day.  Before we get too carried away with the enormity of this figure, we should recognise that this is only 5.7% of the world’s population, which means that a huge 94.3% of the world’s people do not use Facebook daily!

It is likewise not that easy to find out detailed data from Twitter, although officially some 177 million Tweets were sent on 11 March 2011.  In the above vein, though, it should be noted that this is equivalent to only 1 per every 2.5% of the world’s population (some useful sites providing more comprehensive visual summaries of data on Twitter include MarketingGum and digitalbuzz, although these are becoming rather dated; see also report on CMSWire). In September 2011, Twitter announced that it had 100 million active global users logging in once a month – but again this only represents 1.4% of the world’s population!

When we read about how Facebook and Twitter are going to change the world, we therefore need to think very carefully about whose world, and the kind of world they might create.  To be sure, digital technologies have enormous potential to serve the interests of the poorest and most marginalised, and the numbers of users of services such as Twitter and Facebook are indeed increasing impressively, but with such low levels of global reach they are not yet the dominant force that many would claim them to be – or indeed some users might like to think they are!  So, how many people have more than 1000 followers on Twitter?!

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