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:: The ITU ICT Development Index (IDI): background and methodology

3.1 Background to the creation of a single ITU ICT index

Given its leading role in the collection and dissemination of telecommunication and ICT statistics worldwide, ITU is naturally well placed to develop a statistical tool that would allow countries to benchmark their information societies globally and regionally. With the revolutionary spread of ICTs during the past two decades, and the resulting impact on societies and economies, international calls for monitoring and benchmarking have increased. At the same time, since the turn of the century the availability of Internet-related data globally has increased, making it feasible to construct a composite index that combines several indicators into one single statistical value and compare it over a number of years. This is when ITU’s work on composite indices began.


In 2003, ITU developed the “Digital Access Index (DAI)”, which was presented at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).2 The main objective of the DAI was to measure the overall ability of individuals in a country to access and use ICTs. It was thus built around five categories: infrastructure, affordability, knowledge, quality and actual usage of ICTs. It was based on a methodology that used goalposts (or upper value limits), which were averaged to obtain category scores. Categories were then averaged to obtain the overall index value. The DAI included eight indicators and was calculated for 178 economies for the year 2002. Comparative DAI scores for the years 1998 and 2002 were calculated for 40 countries. Although it was published once only, it received considerable interest from Governments and other users and showed that there was a clear international demand for such a benchmarking tool.


In 2005, ITU and Orbicom3 decided to merge the DAI with another index, the Orbicom “Infostate Index” (also published at WSIS 2003) to create the “ICT Opportunity Index (ICT-OI)”. The decision to merge the two indices was taken in order to benefit from the experiences gained in producing the two indices and to avoid publishing two ICT indices that were similar in terms of the data they were based upon. It was also in response to calls from the international community and following the WSIS Geneva Plan of Action recommendation (paragraph 28) “to develop a composite ICT Development (Digital Opportunity) Index” combining statistical indicators with analytical work. The first edition of the ICT-OI was published jointly by Orbicom and ITU at WSIS 2005.4 The WSIS Tunis Agenda made reference and acknowledged the ICT-OI as one of the two indices (the other one was the “Digital Opportunity Index – DOI”, see below) to measure information society progress. An updated version of the ICT-OI was published by ITU in 2007.

The ICT-OI was particularly designed to monitor the global digital divide and to track country progress over time and between countries of similar income levels. Based on the Orbicom Infostate conceptual framework, which is closely linked to economic theory, the ICT-OI distinguished between infodensity (including ICT infrastructure and skills) and info-use (including ICT uptake and intensity of use). It thus grouped ten indicators into four sub-indices, each of which could be tracked separately and allowed to identify strengths and weaknesses in different ICT areas. The ICT-OI adopted most of the indicators from the DAI. By reducing the number of indicators from 17 to 10, the ICT-OI could be calculated for a much larger number of countries (183) compared to its predecessor, the Orbicom Infostate Index (139 countries). The methodology used by the ICT-OI (and the Infostate Index) was more complex compared to that of the DAI. Based on the understanding that the digital divide is a relative concept, the ICT-OI calculated values for a reference country and reference year, which served as the basis for calculating changes in “infostate” developments. It was thus less designed as a tool for benchmarking and ranking countries, but rather for tracking country and group differences across time and in relation to each other. One of the drawbacks of the index was that countries could not easily replicate the computation in order to calculate a national index as it was based on values of other countries, which would change for every year.


Also in 2005, another ITU index, the “Digital Opportunity Index (DOI)” was developed in response to the WSIS Geneva Plan of Action call for an ICT Development (Digital Opportunity) Index. A preliminary version of the DOI was launched at WSIS 2005, and the WSIS Tunis Agenda made reference and acknowledged the DOI as one of the two indices to measure information society progress. A full version of the DOI was published in 2006, and an updated version in 2007.

The main objective of the DOI was to measure “digital opportunity” or the potential of countries to benefit from access to ICTs. The DOI was based on three main categories: opportunity, infrastructure and utilization. Out of 11 indicators used in the index, 9 corresponded to a subset of the internationally agreed core list of ICT indicators developed by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development. The DOI included indicators measuring new technologies, such as fixed and mobile broadband, as well as price data to reflect affordability (called opportunity). The methodology used by the DOI was close to that of the DAI, with the use of goalposts and absolute values rather than relative performance, as the ICT-OI. It was thus easier for countries to replicate the methodology, and indeed a number of countries used the DOI methodology to produce a national index.

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