Data deficit means we’re in the dark about the digital divide
By Alison Gillwald
Article written for and published by The Conversation Africa
Digital concerns underpin many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Gender equality, good health, quality education, industry innovation, smart and sustainable cities: these all require strong information and communications technology systems to become a reality.
For all of this to happen, developing countries will have to overcome the “digital divide”. This refers to the gap between those who are connected – first to voice and now to Internet services – and those who aren’t.
But there’s a problem. We simply don’t have the data in developing countries, and in global statistics, to know what the status quo is or whether the digital divide is being closed. So we don’t know if information and communications technologies are contributing to the achievement of the SDG targets.
There is some supply side data provided by operators and collected by regulators. This is fed into the UN statistical system. It’s then used as the basis of multiple digital indices that now exist. But this has many limitations for policy or planning in developing and emerging economies.
For example, it can’t be used to measure several basic indicators – like gender, age and income levels – in the predominantly prepaid mobile markets of the Global South.
The AfterAccess Survey, which was run across 16 countries in the Global South in 2017, fills some of these data gaps. The survey tells us who has access to and uses mobile phones for what purposes. It also reveals data about Internet users and non-users, and the reasons that people aren’t online – usually, because Internet enabled devices are too expensive.
All this allows us to compare digital indicators from a range of countries and to see patterns among countries. It shows us that in large populations like Nigeria, India and Bangladesh, irrespective of their distribution of wealth its a struggle to get people connected.
Read the full article here The Conversation Africa.