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Frequently Asked Questions

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IC4D Data and Methodology
Ask the Author!

Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang
cqiang@worldbank.org

For Media Inquiries Contact

Ian Larsen
ilarsen@worldbank.org


  1. Why is the World Bank introducing country ICT performance measures?
  2. How robust are the Country ICT Performance Measures?
  3. How many economies and how many scores are included in the calculation of the measures?
  4. What are the criteria for the selection of indicators?
  5. Why are fixed and mobile separate indicators in the Access measure?
  6. Why does the Access measure not include indicators for new technologies such as mobile broadband?
  7. ICT services in my countries are cheaper than those in many developed countries. Why is our Affordability measure lower?
  8. In my country, income disparity is very large. The Affordability measure may be high, but the poorest population cannot afford the ICT services.
  9. Did you take into account in the measures whether a country is a reformer or non-reformer?
  10. Why are the Applications measures not in line with the perception that I have of some countries’ ICT application status?
  11. What other dimensions are you considering to add to future versions of the measures?

1.Why is the World Bank introducing country ICT performance measures?
The performance measures aim to provide a quick and effective way for policy makers to assess their countries’ ICT capacities in comparison with other countries, as well as benchmarking their countries’ progress along key dimensions of ICT development over time. They can also promote discussions of good policies and adequate focus on ICT in countries’ development strategies.


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2. How robust are the Country ICT Performance Measures?
More than 95 percent of the performance measures using the Average Percentile Method are identical to those calculated using other commonly used aggregation methodologies, including the Principal Component Method (for a description of the Principal Component method, see http://www.itl.nist.gov/div898/handbook/pmc/section5/pmc55.htm).


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3. How many economies and how many scores are included in the calculation of the measures?
Our calculation includes a total of 150 developing and developed economies with a population greater than one million. For each ICT performance dimension, we have a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 given to the highest performance decile and 1 to the lowest decile.


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4. What are the criteria for the selection of indicators?
The indicators are selected to best represent and measure the dimension, based on internationally-recognized indicators for measuring ICT (http://unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom/doc09/BG-ICTIndicators.pdf). This core indicator set was developed in consultation with ICT ministries and national statistics offices in many countries. The selection is also subject to the availability of country-level data from international organizations, supplemented by World Bank staff calculation based on official national sources.


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5. Why are fixed and mobile separate indicators in the Access measure?
There are important functional and conceptual differences between a mobile phone, which is typically owned and used for individual use and provides mobility, and a fixed line phone, which is used primarily for shared family or office use. It is important to be able to measure both.

Fixed and mobile are partly, but certainly not fully substitutable. For instance, a mobile phone cannot substitute for a fixed line connection (at least not at present) for high speed Internet access at low cost. Although mobile phones increasingly offer high-speed Internet access, the experience is still different than access from a laptop or PC. In most instances, the Internet browsers for mobile phones have been customized and there are special web pages for small screens. Similarly, a fixed line cannot substitute for some of the functions of mobility, such as emergency services and location-based services.


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6. Why does the Access measure not include indicators for new technologies such as mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband subscribers, voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) subscribers, and pay TV subscribers are examples of access indicators for emerging technologies. Data for these indicators are available from several sources, though they have limited country coverage. In some cases, such as mobile broadband, limited coverage may suggest that the service is not yet widely used. Yet, these cases may represent future trends of a dynamic and ever-evolving sector. A data consolidation effort has thus been initiated (see the annex in Part II of our report) in anticipation that data for these important indicators will become more widely available in the near future.


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7. ICT services in my countries are cheaper than those in many developed countries. Why is our Affordability measure lower?
Affordability is a measure of financial ability of potential users to purchase a service. Therefore, the price baskets (for fixed, mobile and internet) are normalized as percentages of per capita income. Although prices of ICT services may be lower in some developing countries, the corresponding percentages of the average income are likely to be higher than in developed countries, given their relatively low income levels. This means that ICT services are less affordable to users in developing countries because they would require a higher percentage of their average income.


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8. In my country, income disparity is very large. The Affordability measure may be high, but the poorest population cannot afford the ICT services.
Income inequality is not taken into account in the calculation of our affordability measure for the following reasons:

  1. Median income data is not widely available.
  2. Purchasing power price data for ICT baskets is not available.
  3. Our performance measure aims to reflect the average national level. Although a particular income group (e.g. the lowest income quartile) can indicate the affordability of that part of the population, it would not be representative and provide a picture of overall affordability.

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9. Did you take into account in the measures whether a country is a reformer or non-reformer?
The ICT performance measures are calculated using output indicators. They do not take into account what policies were involved -- in other words, it does not “pre-judge” ICT policies. Hence the performance measures do not look at which countries introduced competition, improved regulatory capacity or used universal access funds or subsidies to improve access.

The measures can, however, be used along with sector reform indicators to establish linkages whether for instance the level of competition and regulation have led to wider and more affordable access; or whether good access is a necessary condition for ICT take-up (e.g. ICT adoption in businesses, governments).


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10. Why are the Applications measures not in line with the perception that I have of some countries’ ICT application status?
The two indicators included in the applications measure, namely the United Nations Web Measure Index and the number of secure servers, might not be representative of the wider applications dimension, as they focus on the adoption of ICT applications in government and business. Indicators that might measure take-up of ICT in the education and health sectors, for example, such as percentage of schools connected to the Internet and percentage of clinics with personal computers or Internet connections, are not widely available for many developing countries. Relevant indicators for these areas have thus not yet been included in this edition of the Application measure.

The World Bank and the United Nations are involved in ongoing discussions regarding the development of improved measures for e-government, such as the number of government services available online and the percentage of uptake of online service delivery. Statistics of business use of ICT are generally collected from special ICT business surveys or as a module in business surveys. Most OECD and EU countries already collect these data annually, and other countries are beginning to collect indicators such as percentage of businesses using computers, Internet or with a Web presence and business use of Internet by type of activities with similar frequency (see the annex in Part II of our report).


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11. What other dimensions are you considering to add to future versions of the measures?
Usage and Quality dimensions of ICT sector development, which are complementary to the Access dimension, are being considered in ongoing data collection efforts. Indicators for the Usage dimension include international voice traffic (minutes per person per month), mobile telephone usage (minutes per user per month), short message service (SMS) usage (messages per user per month) and Internet users (per 100 people). Quality and capacity of ICT services includes telephone faults (per 100 mainlines per year), broadband subscribers (percentage of total Internet subscribers), and international Internet bandwidth (bits per person). As the data availability of these indicators reaches a high threshold, Usage and Quality can be added as new dimensions to the country ICT performance measures.

Currently, the country ICT performance measures focus mainly on output indicators—no impact metrics (for example, the impact of ICT development on economic growth, labor productivity, and employment opportunities) are incorporated in the framework.

Reliable impact measures (and evidence of causality) of ICT use are still being developed. In addition, the data required for impact indicators are usually collected through surveys, implying high collection costs in both developed and developing countries. Scarcity of data and inconsistent methodologies continue to make cross-country comparison difficult. Nevertheless, this is an important area for future research given the growing interest in understanding the role ICT plays in economic and social development.


 
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