Monitoring the Dig...

Monitoring the Digital Divide... and Beyond

Creating digital opportunities is not something that happens after addressing the "core" development challenges; it is a key component of addressing those challenges in the 21st century. This study presents a new model and methodology to monitor the digital divide.

The information revolution differs from previous industrial revolutions in many respects. First, it is not only based on a wave of concurrent technological innovations (in informatics on one hand and in telecommunications on the other), but also underpinned by a number of externalities (network externalities, knowledge-sharing effects) which have never been experienced before in the world economy. Secondly, it challenges many of the distances that have until now separated different players and components of this same world economy. By redefining geographical distances, the information revolution has been the true engine of globalization. By redefining economic distances (between rich and poor) it has the power to become one of the engines of a world free of poverty.

To achieve this goal, however, many obstacles still need to be overcome. Before we can decide on how we should attempt to overcome them, we have to know how high, how far, how deep those obstacles are. Measurements and scorecards will therefore be at the heart of future efforts to address the so-called digital divide and identify the digital opportunities which will increase average income while diminishing income inequalities.

While other efforts and entities are concentrating their approach and focus on the ways in which "e-readiness" relates to overall competitiveness and international development goals (GIT Report, UN ICT Task Force), or on specific implications of the information revolution on employment (ILO), trade (UNCTAD) or education (UNESCO), the Orbicom report is an attempt to offer a global set of indicators (infostate) showing how the availability of ICTs and access to networks can be a misleading indicator if it neglects people's skills, and if ICT networks and skills combined (infodensity) are not matched by a measurement of what individuals, business and countries actually do with such technologies (info-use). It also offers important perspectives into the central role that e-policies and knowledge have started to play in determining how countries will fare in the global competition to benefit from the information revolution and move away from poverty.

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