Measuring ICTs: Indicators to promote evidence-based policymaking

BloWith the rapid dissemination of information and communication technology (ICT), people are able to engage in all segments of society. At the same time, the fast adoption of ICTs by citizens, organizations and governments, poses new challenges for policymakers aiming to foster the ICT skills development required for success in today’s digital economy while also ensuring digital inclusion.

Measuring the impacts of ICTs in society, as well as monitoring how they are being used to promote sustainable development, is essential to the design of effective public policies and improve accountability, and a crucial activity to guide policymakers’ ICT growth strategies.

The importance of data collection

Many countries and organizations have been increasing their capacity to produce ICT-related statistics to help policymakers craft better policies. However, some regions and countries still lack the ability to provide systematic and reliable ICT statistics.

Most countries collect and produce supply-side administrative data through ministries or regulators, which is very often insufficient for policy purposes. This is why the need for harmonized, internationally comparable demand-side ICT statistics is being discussed at national and international levels.

The ITU-led Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development plays an important role in providing a harmonized methodological framework to measure 53 ICT core indicators. The process aims to develop statistical standards and internationally agreed methodologies to enable countries to measure the access to and use of ICTs.

Lessons from Brazil

Brazil officially started to produce internationally comparable ICT statistics in 2004 as a result of a partnership between the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee ( and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). This made the inclusion of an ICT module in the National Households Sample Survey (PNAD) possible, giving rise to the first generation of ICT statistics in the country.

After this success, the need to deepen the investigation of the impact of ICTs in specific areas, such as e-government, e-commerce, barriers to access and use, skills, and safety, has led both the Internet Steering Committee and the Network Information Center ( to allocate resources for annual stand-alone ICT surveys. This important initiative made it possible to establish Brazil’s first two national surveys dedicated exclusively to ICTs in households and ICTs in enterprises. These surveys have become the major and primary source of statistical data on ICTs in Brazil, and are important instruments for designing and assessing ICT policies.

The solid cooperation between ITU and Center of Studies for Information and Communications Technologies ( over the years has been central to the development of ICT indicators through the exchange of relevant information, best practices and sharing experiences.’s experience shows that internationally agreed methodologies are of utmost importance, but other initiatives are necessary to engage policymakers and other relevant stakeholders in the ICT statistics production process. Capacity-building workshops on how to use survey data in the policymaking process have proven effective in Brazil; aside from raising awareness on the importance of measurement in the design and monitoring of ICT policies, the workshops are also an important channel for disseminating internationally acknowledged frameworks and methodologies, such as those set forth by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development.

After ten years of compiling ICT statistics, currently conducts nine national stand-alone ICT survey projects, including ICT Households, ICT Kids Online Brazil, ICT Enterprises, and ICT in Health. Each survey project relies on the methodological support of an important group of experts, composed of representatives from government and international organizations, academia and civil society.  This multi-stakeholder network of collaborators is currently comprised of approximately 200 experts that ensure all phases of the data production process are rigorously tested, and helps to continuously improve methodological procedures for obtaining reliable and quality data, as well as identifying new areas of investigation.

Alexandre Fernandes Barbosa

Alexandre_BarbosaAlexandre Fernandes Barbosa is Head of the Center of Studies for Information and Communications Technologies (, an Unesco Category II Center for the development of information society based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mr. Barbosa is in charge of several nationwide ICT Survey projects in Brazil aimed at the production of ICT-related statistics and indicators. Mr. Barbosa holds a PhD degree in Business Administration from Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Master Degree in Business Administration from Bradford University, a Master Degree in Computer Science from Federal University of Minas Gerais, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Catholic University. He has conducted postdoctoral research at HEC Montreal in Canada.  

itu newsThis article originally appeared in the ITU News. The edition also covered:

  • Which countries ranked highest on ITU’s latest ICT Development Index — and why
  • How Big Data can be harnessed to drive ICT development
  • How governments can help drive homegrown ICT innovation

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