Table of Contents

  • The 2003 ITU World Telecommunication Development Report: Access Indicators for the Information Society has been specially prepared for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) (Geneva, 10-12 December 2003). This year’s report examines the specific issue of measuring access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). ITU has long been involved in analysing access to ICTs. As early as 1984, the Maitland Commission Report, known as “The Missing Link”, first drew international attention to the large inequities in telephone access across the world. ITU’s 1998 World Telecommunication Development Report—on “universal access”— updated the Missing Link findings in light of technological and regulatory changes affecting the telecommunication industry.

  • It is a pleasure to present this seventh edition of the World Telecommunication Development Report. The report reflects the importance that the ITU’s Development Sector (ITU-D) attaches to the collection, dissemination and exchange of information on telecommunications and ICT. These activities arise out of the ITU’s role to collect statistics covering its sector as the United Nation’s specialized agency for telecommunications and Resolution 8: Collection and dissemination of information of the last World Telecommunication Development Conference (Istanbul, 2002).

  • In December 2003, the United Nations held the first high-level meeting focused on the information society. The UN’s decision to organize a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) after holding major conferences on the environment, human rights and women illustrates the importance the topic has taken on in the world.

  • Ensuring universal service and access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) is in many countries a top national objective, often enshrined in laws that govern the sector. Despite this, few governments presently track accessibility on a regular basis. Those governments that do measure and monitor access, do not always use the most appropriate indicators. Furthermore, given the different approaches taken by different countries, the different indicators used worldwide are not always compatible. These factors have made it difficult to measure ICT development accurately and to elaborate targeted plans for enhancing access. With these obstacles in mind, this chapter examines ways of measuring access to ICTs in three major areas: individual, household and community access.

  • Although household penetration of information and communication technologies (ICT) is a fundamental measure, home use is not the only means of access. Use outside the home—at work or school for example—can be a springboard by which people first gain ICT skills and experience. In developing countries in particular, shared ICT use through Internet cafés or schools may be the only affordable form of access available. This chapter looks at how ICT availability in different sectors can be measured, with particular focus on business, education and government.

  • The turn of a century is often marked by reflection on the past and fresh aspirations for a better future. One way this has been addressed at the global level is through the Millennium Declaration, adopted by 189 Member States of the United Nations at its fiftyfifth General Assembly in September 2000. Through the Declaration, some 147 Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to working together to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level, and to reducing poverty.

  • As the world moves towards a global information society, countries are becoming increasingly aware of the central importance of extending access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) to their populations. With the growing recognition of ICTs as an effective tool for social development and economic growth, there are evergreater incentives for countries to foster higher access levels. Alongside countries’ desire to increase ICT access at the national level, there is a growing international demand for reliable and comprehensive statistical information to help countries set their own targets, measure progress and make useful international comparisons. For this, a selection of indicators — usually compiled into an index — gives a far better overview than any single indicator.

  • The world is still a long way from agreeing upon a common and extensive set of information society access indicators. Where data do exist, they are sometimes unreliable, confusing, incomplete, out of date or not internationally comparable. They are also often difficult to locate. The problem is particularly acute for developing nations, some of which lack the technical expertise or resources to collect, compile and disseminate ICT statistics.