Telecom statistics are key to socioeconomic development

The International Telecommunication Union, the UN specialised agency for information and communication technologies, is gearing itself for the 14th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) which takes place in Botswana from Monday to Wednesday.

WTIS-2016 will bring together information and communication technologies (ICT) ministers, heads of national telecom/ICT regulatory authorities and national statistical offices, heads of international organizations, chief executive officers of private sector companies, and statistical experts from around the world.

The symposium will feature high-level debates, including a ministerial roundtable and a leaders’ dialogue. The ministerial roundtable will examine innovative policies on how to deliver the benefits of ICTs to all citizens and to ensure that no one is left behind. It will further debate the opportunities of ICTs to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. The leaders’ dialogue will discuss the impact of ICTs in such areas as economic growth, employment and security, and address data needs and new data sources.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the great potential of ICTs to improve socioeconomic development.

The world is moving faster and faster towards a digital society: in order to connect everyone and to create a truly inclusive information society, we need comparable and high-quality data and statistics to measure progress. Better data means better policy making and better decision taking by both public and private sectors to improve socio-economic development and uplifting of lives of people everywhere.

Data released by ITU earlier this year indicated that ICT services are getting more affordable, but 3.9 billion people – more than half of the world’s population – are still not using the Internet. Mobile phone coverage is now near-ubiquitous, with over 95 percent of the global population or some seven billion people living in an area covered by a basic 2G mobile cellular network. ITU statistics help track progress on the status of access to ICTs, show the rapid technological progress made to date by countries, and help policy makers to identify the people and communities being left behind in the rapidly evolving digital economy.

For the 8th consecutive year, ITU will publish the Measuring the Information Society Report. The 2016 Report will feature the latest ICT Development Index (IDI), including global and regional IDI rankings, and an analysis of the digital divide. It will highlight key performers and the most dynamic countries. The report presents new country data on prices for key ICT services. Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015, the report will highlight the role of ICTs and presents the ICT indicators included in the SDG monitoring framework. The report also presents a new metrics to monitor global mobile phone uptake and discusses the latest trends in Internet usage.

The ICT Development Index (IDI) is a unique, impartial, highly reliable benchmark that is widely used, not just by policy makers and other UN agencies, but by the world’s telecoms operators, equipment manufacturers and ICT service providers, the global investment community, and experts in academia. It monitors and compares ICT access, use and skills around the world, allowing countries to track their ICT development progress year-on-year, as well as measuring themselves against global scores.

Today, there are new emerging technologies such as big data, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence with the capacity to transform people’s lives in health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, disaster risk reduction and management.

The adopted outcomes of WTIS provide strategic guidance to the national and international community, including ITU, on the future priorities of work related to monitoring the information society based on internationally agreed definitions and methodologies.

ITU data inform public and private-sector decisionmakers, and help us accomplish our mission: to make use of the full potential of ICTs for accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Brahima Sanou is director of the International Telecommunications Union’s Telecommunication Development Bureau

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