In order to drive the global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) agenda, we need to set ambitious and achievable targets. The Connect 2020 agenda details such a vision to ensure the continued role of ICTs as a key enabler for social, economic and environmentally sustainable growth and development worldwide. The agenda includes 17 targets for the ICT sector set around four goals – growth, inclusiveness, sustainability, innovation and partnership. To know if we have achieved these goals, we need to measure and monitor them.
The Connect 2020 roundtables at the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference showed that there is a palpable desire to work together throughout the ICT ecosystem to achieve these goals; but how do we rise to the challenge of measuring progress throughout the 2020 timeframe?
I was joined at the fifth and final Connect 2020 roundtable on ‘building a robust monitoring framework for the global ICT agenda’ by three data collection experts – Dr Seung Keon Kim, Director General, Korea Association for ICT Promotion (KAIT); Ms Areewan Haorangsi, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry Of Information and Communication Technology, Thailand; and Mr Nilo Pasquali, Manager for Regulatory Affairs, Anatel – to discuss how ITU and Member States can work together to track and measure progress.
Measurement of data within the Connect 2020 framework is crucial – without it Member States cannot change or adapt policy as necessary to achieve the targets. As Dr Kim noted, two key factors are required; the availability of high quality, timely and reliable data, and a robust international framework to measure such data. ITU collects data and indicators for the majority of the 17 targets included in the Connect 2020 agenda. ITU-D’s work on ICT measurement relies on the cooperation of Member States, industry, and experts to ensure the production of comparable, adequate and reliable ICT statistics. We also cooperate closely with other international organizations, in particular the members of the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development.
Our two statistical expert groups – the Expert Group ICT/Telecommunication Indicators (EGTI) with around 500 members and the Expert Group on ICT Household (EGH) with around 300 members – work continuously to improve methodologies, define new indicators and review existing ones.
The primary purpose of the Measuring the Information Society report, ITU’s flagship annual publication, is to track and analyse an extensive set of indicators and on-going trends across the ICT industry, and will be launched on the first day of the 2014 World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) which will take place in Tbilisi, Georgia, from 24 to 26 November.
But as Ms Haorangsi noted, Goals 3 ‘Sustainability’ and 4 ‘Innovation and Partnership’ are a little more difficult to define. Thus we need to develop clear and objective criteria to ensure that we create purpose-built indicators that allow us to gather and analyse reliable data. This will also help Member States to better allocate national resources, such as manpower and budget, to gathering this data.
Moreover, by collecting data according to internationally agreed and standardised methodologies, Member States can better track progress and achievements and benchmark against internationally comparable indicators. With the Connect 2020 goals and targets, there are insurmountable opportunities for some developing countries to climb higher on ICT indexes such as the ICT Development Index (IDI).
Furthermore, without monitoring, we cannot track progress or identify gaps which require policy attention. Pasquali noted that this would be especially important given that some of the targets set out in the Connect 2020 framework are challenging for Brazil, especially noting the countries geography – looking at Target 1 ‘Growth’, the large country has different regions, from large cities to dense rainforest, where different forms of Internet connectivity are required and thus specific policy approaches are required, and help set future targets.
Here, detailed statistical analysis could indicate areas where more work needs to be done. This is the case with the Republic of Korea, where the data collection framework KSIC – the Korea industrial classification which is based on UN classification – and ICT statistics are core reference materials for ICT policy decisions.
A wide range of comments were contributed from a very engaged audience including from Dr. Robert Pepper, member of the UN Broadband Commission, who noted that “data is only as good as the data you get from governments.” We need the latest data, but there are inconsistencies in getting the data to ITU in a timely manner. This can be achieved through highlighting the importance of statistics both within the Connect 2020 agenda and the ICT sector generally, especially when considering its role in social, economic and environmentally sustainable growth and development worldwide.
We must not forget that gathering statistics that matter depends on creating the necessary framework to meet the targets. Hence, if we hope to achieve the goals set out in the Connect 2020 agenda in the desired timeframe, ITU must work with Member States to track and measure their progress, as well as supporting their implementation.
By: Brahima Sanou
Mr. Brahima Sanou was elected Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau by the Plenipotentiary Conference, 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He was re-elected at the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea in October 2014.