The World Summit on the Information Society set several targets to be achieved by 2015 without specifying how they could be measured. The International Telecommunication Union has proposed four specific indicators that could measure progress made by countries toward the foundational Target 10, that of bringing ICTs within the reach of a majority of the world’s inhabitants. Two indicators are for mobile subscriptions and use, and two for Internet use by individuals and by households. Of the four, Indicators 1 and 3 currently exist, albeit with significant shortcomings. This paper proposes a modest improvement to the method of measuring Indicator 3, Internet users, which combines the existing supply-side data with available but incomplete demand-side data. The proposed change implements the often-stated principle that demand-side data is first best; it also removes the most egregious use of high multipliers by imposing a mathematically derived ceiling, whereby a country’s multiplier is set based on its per capita GNI rank. The ceiling preserves the current practice of national administrations setting multipliers depending on national circumstances; it simply requires them to be set at reasonable levels. If national circumstances justify higher numbers, all that the national administration has to do is to conduct a demand-side survey.
The existing momentum of the mobile voice industry is such that we can expect considerable progress to be made in connecting most, if not all, of the world’s people through their own or neighbors’ and friends’ mobile handsets. Indicators 1 and 2 proposed by the ITU seek to document this progress at the country level. Indicator 2 in particular requires the use of demand-side survey data which is not uniformly available for all countries and for every year. The method proposed for calculating Internet users may also be used to synthesize demand- and supply-side data on mobile users and create incentives for national administrations to conduct demand-side studies.
Indicator 4 is a challenge. The only sources are demand-side household surveys. If they are conducted the ITU will be able to report results. But a backup to demand-side data does is not evident. Since it is unlikely that all countries will conduct demand-side surveys every year, it is doubtful that Indicator 4 can be reported.
The proposed solutions are interim solutions, appropriate for, and hastening, the transition from public-utility type forms of supplying ICT services to forms akin to those found in fast moving consumer goods industries that will require a complete shift from today’s supply-side dominated indicators to demand-side indicators.