Internet users

The point of the post about Myanmar’s Facebook users was to make the point that it was sensible to use Facebook user numbers as floor for Internet user estimations. But someone who commented on what I had tweeted appeared to think it was some flaw on the part of Myanmar or its people: Another country where Facebook and the Internet are often mixed up — Digital Asia Hub (@digitalasiahub) August 29, 2016 I was thinking why, when I recalled what a speaker from the Thai telecom industry association had said during his presentation at the e agriculture event. In his talk, the number of Thai Internet users and Thai Facebook users was identical: 38 million.
According to the latest data, Sri Lanka has 16 Facebook users per 100 people. According to a 12,500 household survey conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics in January-June 2015, Sri Lanka has 11.8 Internet users aged 5-69 years, per 100 people. The wording is a little ambiguous, so it may be possible that it’s 11.8 households with a Internet user, per 100 households.
In a previous post I wrote about there being more Facebook users than Internet users in South East Asia. I also said that this was not the case in South Asia. But I was wrong. I had relied on data from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was only recently that I looked at the data for Nepal.
The Economist is a plum. In all honesty, I was thrilled we were mentioned. I wish they had gone to people with real data on Africa like RIA, rather than those who simply speculate, but still, a thoughtful piece. While the claim re radio may hold true for Africa, it definitely is incorrect for the Indo-Gangetic plain. Once restricted to the tech-literate, these are now common and easy to use.
As far we knew, this number is collected on the basis of demand-side surveys. When such surveys were not available, “administrations” (Ministries or Regulatory Agencies tasked with the job) would submit estimates, based the number of subscriber and a multiplier. We’ve spent untold hours on the phone, trying to wheedle these numbers out. We even published a peer-reviewed article proposing an alternative (and, in our opinion, superior) method. But little did we (and the peer reviewers, and those collating the data at the ITU) know.
A paper based on work Roshanthi Lucas Gunaratne and I did over the past two years is finally published in a peer-reviewed journal, info. Here is an excerpt of the abstract: Purpose – There are significant shortcomings in the current method of estimating the indicator “Proportion of internet users” by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in countries where demand-side data are unavailable. In the absence of demand-side surveys, governments calculate the proportion of internet users on the basis of the number of subscriptions and a multiplier, which leads to arbitrary values. Errors in such base indicators ripple through the system, causing significant errors in composite indicators, and should be minimised. The purpose of this paper is to propose a new evidence-based methodology, in the absence of demand-side surveys, to estimate the proportion of individuals using the internet.
In light of growing talk of a new divide that is emerging, this time a broadband divide, two indicators are beginning to assume greater importance: Internet users/100 and broadband subscriptions/100. Not all Internet users have Facebook accounts, but all Facebook users are, by definition, Internet users. Some people may have multiple Facebook accounts, but not as many as those who have multiple SIMs. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the number of a country’s Internet Users exceeds the number of Facebook accounts from that country. In October 2012, there were 1,448,160 Facebook accounts from Sri Lanka.
For some time, we have been engaged in the task of improving the way Internet users are counted. We are in agreement with the ITU that the best way of counting Internet users is through demand-side surveys. According to reports, China conducts regular surveys on Internet use. Yet, the ITU does not use these data. Why?
But this time they are not the numbers given by the ITU. They are the exaggerated claims of the BTRC. The Daily Star questions: If BTRC’s figures were true, Bangladesh would be among the top 20 countries in the world in terms of number of internet users. Alas, it is nowhere in sight. Munir Hasan, an ICT expert and secretary general of Open Source Network, estimates the number of internet users in the country to be no more than 1.
The Economist has a nice nuanced discussion on the above question, starting thus: DO DIGITAL economies grow faster than analogue ones? Rich-country leaders seem to think so. G7 and European Union governments are committed to a variety of digital stimulus packages; Australia, the biggest spender, has promised broadband investment of $33.4 billion (or 3% of GDP) to connect 90% of homes at ultra-fast speeds. “Digitisation” involves adopting technologies like wireless phones and internet access to generate, process and share information.
According to a post by Ami, Sri Lanka has hit 11.8% internet penetration by December 2011, with an estimated 2.5 million Internet users. While the data correspond to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) data, Sri Lanka hit double digit internet penetration by December 2010 according to ITU, rather than December 2011 as mentioned by the author.  Therefore, by now, the number of Internet users should be even higher.
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 ITU dataset is the mother lode, mined by all. But sometimes, it is good to interrogate the quality of what the ITU produces. The most recent instance of ITU data being subject to sophisticated analysis without any attention being paid to the quality of the data is by noted ICT4D scholar, Richard Heeks. In a previous essay, Heeks interrogated the numbers emanating from the ITU on “mobile subscriptions.” It is a pity the same was not done in the recent piece on Internet and broadband.
I was invited to conduct a discussion at the Cabinet Office in Brasilia with senior government officials driving the Brazilian Broadband Policy that will shortly be announced. Representatives of the relevant ministries, ANATEL the regulatory agency, the public telecom operator and a local think tank participated in what proved to be a lively discussion. Given the policy was almost fully formulated, I decided to focus on performance indicators, a subject I was working on for both UNCTAD and one which had preoccupied me since the time I was a regulator. It is also a subject that LIRNEasia has developed considerable expertise in. My guess was correct.
We’ve been saying that most people will reach the Internet through mobile platforms for some time. And for some time, our colleagues have been looking at us as though we have sunstroke. But we like to break new ground and know that skeptical looks are part of the package. Now we have a powerful ally: the New York Times. With the majority of Internet traffic expected to shift to congestion-prone mobile networks, there is growing debate on both sides of the Atlantic about whether operators of the networks should be allowed to treat Web users differently, based on the users’ consumption.
Sep 4th 2008 | From The Economist print edition Computing: In future, most new internet users will be in developing countries and will use mobile phones. Expect a wave of innovation THE World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the body that leads the development of technical standards for the web, usually concerns itself with nerdy matters such as extensible mark-up languages and cascading style sheets. So the new interest group it launched in May is rather unusual. It will focus on the use of the mobile web for social development—the sort of vague concept that techie types tend to avoid, because it is more than simply a technical matter of codes and protocols. Why is the W3C interested in it?
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