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Establishing Metrics for Digital Inclusion

Establishing Metrics for Digital Inclusion


Edited by K. Anne-Rivers Forcke, IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center.
Contributors:  James Thurston, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Group; Martin Gould, Accessibility Expert; Andi Snow-Weaver, IBM
Human Ability and Accessibility Center; Susan Schorr, Head, Special Initiatives Division, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT)

Section Summary
The four elements of the Digital Inclusion discussion, as established by the W2i Digital Inclusion Framework, are:

  1. Availability (the ready-for-purchase, physical presence of any ICT device or service within a defined market). The World Bank uses seven variables to describe the availability of ICT.

  2. Accessibility (the “ability to access” the functionality and possible benefit of an ICT system or device), which is measured by the extent of compliance with the relevant technical standard for accessibility.

  3. Affordability (the extent to which the cost of the ICT system or device can be borne by a market), and

  4. Applicability and relevance (the usefulness of the service or information to the public).

These four inter-related elements are essential to determine the level of accessibility of the ICT, which is a prerequisite for digital inclusion.

Starting with the end in mind
Beginning in 2006, the Wireless Internet Institute (W2i) launched its Digital Inclusion (DI) Roundtable series providing a multi-disciplinary platform and approach for professionals from industry, academia, government and civil society to share emerging global best practices and to develop local community digital inclusion strategies and scenarios. Within two years the DI Roundtables had tackled the difficult task of establishing a state of the art in the emerging discipline of Digital Inclusion, or e-Inclusion., documenting these activities and work products in their program report The Digital Inclusion Roundtable at the W2i Digital Cities Convention.

Of fundamental importance was the resulting W2i Digital Inclusion Framework. The framework identified four “macro-metrics” based on the common, intrinsic elements of the policies and programs supporting community broadband and digital inclusion observed around the world during this two-year effort. Of the four elements, two of them are tracked and reported on regularly by the World Bank in their publication entitled Information and Communications for Development 2006: Global Trends and Policies. The four elements or “foundations” of the W2i Framework are:

1. Availability – Intended to express the ready-for-purchase, physical presence of any ICT device or service, including assistive technologies, within a defined market. In its publication “Information and Communications for Development 2006: Global Trends and Policies,” the World Bank uses seven variables under the sub-heading of "Access” within its "ICT Sector Performance" data to describe the availability of ICT (but not assistive technologies) at the national level.

2. Accessibility – Intended to express the "ability to access" the functionality, and possible benefit, of an ICT system or device. In this case, the “ability to access” can be measured based on the compliance of an ICT device or service to the applicable accessibility technical standard.

3. Affordability – Intended to express the extent to which the population within a defined market can bear the cost of the ICT service or device, including the cost of assistive technologies if required; could be expressed as a percentage of the population who pay to own, lease or subscribe to a specific ICT service or device (with AT). Again, in its publication, "Information and Communications for Development 2006: Global Trends and Policies," the World Bank employs four variables under the sub-heading of "Affordability" within its "ICT Sector performance" data to express affordability of ICT (but not assistive technologies) at the national level.

4. Applicability and Relevance – Intended to express the extent to which the ICT-based information and/or services are deemed useful by the general population; could be expressed as the percentage of the population who use the information or service in accordance with its intended use and purpose.

This W2i framework clearly articulates accessibility as a prerequisite for any digital inclusion program, whether digital inclusion is seen as the goal (end) of the program or as the strategy (means). While these four elements can be assessed and measured independently, their functions in supporting digital inclusion are inter-related and inter-dependent. As a result, policies and programs advancing accessible ICT must also be aware of factors affecting the availability and affordability of ICTs and assistive technologies (AT), as well as the relevance of the information and/or services to be delivered.

Helpful tools and links for establishing metrics for Digital Inclusion:
1. The Digital Inclusion Roundtable at the W2i Digital Cities Convention, Wireless Internet Institute, Boston, March 2007. 
2. Core ICT Indicators, Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development (PDF) Beirut, November 2005.
3. 2006 Information and Communications for Development: Global Trends and Policies, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2007. 

Suggested Reading
"ICT for Greater Development Impact: Sector Strategies".