Bringing the demand-side perspective to WTIS

Posted by on December 20, 2018  /  0 Comments

Earlier this month, LIRNEasia Research Manager Shazna Zuhyle was in Geneva, where she was asked to speak about ICTs and Affordability at the last World Telecom / ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS 2018). Shazna headed the sub-group within the ITU’s Expert Group on Telecom / ICT Indicators (EGTI) in 2017 that proposed methodological revisions to the ICT Price Basket (IPB). Her talk revolved around the highlights of the changes made to the methodology and in understanding the supply-side data better. For example, at a national level while the value of the IPB may meet the Broadband Commission’s target of prices being less than 2 per cent of GNI per capita, if prices as a percentage of average household income per capita within income groups (e.g. deciles or quintiles) are considered the inequalities become evident. 

She also emphasized the importance of understanding the demand-side perspective of affordability that has direct impact on users, for evidence based policy making, to an audience that usually replies on supply-side data. On the of the key highlights in the ITU’s recent release, Measuring the Information Society Report (MISR 2018), was that “51.2 per cent of individuals, or 3.9 billion people, were using the Internet.” This is possibly the result of supply-side data that counts active data enabled SIMs (including those used by machines such as credit card readers) as opposed to only humans. The disparity can be jarring. For example, our recent demand-side research After Access shows only approx. 19 per cent of the Indian population between ages 15-65 use the Internet. Even if we account for 5-14 year and 65+ olds (with due assumptions of Internet use) the numbers are still low. Given the session was about affordability, barriers to access and use of ICTs in the Global South from our After Access research were also presented. While mobile phone ownership far surpasses that of computers, the majority of devices being used in lower income developing economies are still basic phones. Though lack of affordability is cited as the prime reason for not owning a mobile phone, lack of awareness takes precedence among non-users of the Internet. As a consumer journeys through the various stages from non user to user, limitations to access and use of ICTs varies. For example lack of awareness or technical know-how is a barrier for non users, once they become aware of the benefits costs of getting online become more apparent; for the more tech savvy users privacy and security are major concerns.

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