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Bridging the digital divide

May 22, 2009

Measuring the Information Society, a new index from International Telecommunication Union captures the level of advancement of ICTs in more than 150 countries. The objective is to measure the global digital divide and provide policymakers with a useful tool to assess the information society development.

Measuring the Information Society: ICT Development Index

Publisher: International Telecommunication Union, 2009

This publication has been produced in response to those calls and following the request from ITU members to develop a single ITU index to track the digital divide and to measure countries’ progress towards becoming information societies.


The need to develop an ICT index was emphasised in the outcome documents of the two World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS). The Geneva Plan of Action calls for a realistic international performance evaluation and benchmarking through comparable statistical indicators, and the creation of a composite index.

This was reiterated in the Tunis Agenda, which calls for periodic evaluation through indicators and benchmarking, and an assessment of the magnitude of the digital divide.

It examines global and regional ICT developments during the past five years based on the index results. They reveal that despite huge improvements that were made in the access and use of ICTs worldwide, large disparities remain among countries.

The top ranking economies are primarily high-income countries from the developed world, whereas the least developed countries rank towards the bottom of the index.

Despite impressive growth in the uptake of mobile telephony in many countries, the magnitude of the digital divide remains almost unchanged. However, the divide is slightly closing between countries with very high and those with low ICT levels.

An important element in monitoring ICT developments is to examine the cost of ICT services. High tariffs are often a major barrier to ICT uptake, in particular among poor people.

The report features a new ICT Price Basket, which combines fixed telephone, mobile cellular and fixed broadband tariffs into one measure and compares it across countries, not only in absolute values, but relative to countries’ national incomes.

The results show that fixed and mobile telephony is becoming more and more affordable worldwide; however, fixed broadband Internet is still out of reach – in terms of affordability – for the majority of the world’s inhabitants.

This analytical report is complemented by a series of statistical tables providing country-level data for all indicators included in the Index.

Source : ITU
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