CARICOM wants to measure Caribbean ICT development

via CARICOM Published on November 23, 2010

GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Work is moving apace in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to sustain a mechanism that would facilitate the compilation of relevant and harmonised information and communication technology (ICT) statistics to measure ICT for development (ICT4D) in the region.

An ICT statistics sub-committee of the regional ICT steering committee forms the basis of this mechanism. The ICT statistics sub-committee was established in 2007 and, over the past three years, it worked on developing a focused and structured arrangement for establishing a framework for measuring ICT4D in the region.

The work of the ICT statistics sub-committee is coordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat, under the guidance of Dr Philomen Harrison, director of the regional statistics programme.

At the fifth meeting of the ICT steering committee in Barbados last week, Tashema Bholnath, research officer, Statistics-ICT4D, CARICOM Secretariat, elaborated on the international and regional contexts under which the ICT statistics sub-committee operates. These include millennium development goals (MDGs), the world summit on the information society (WSIS) and the draft regional ICT strategy.

The latter promotes and emphasizes the need for ICT statistics. It identifies advantages for CARICOM member states that have mechanisms for collecting data on ICT. The advantages include the use of ICT statistics to assess its impact on member states’ economies.

According to the strategy, member states will be in a better position to benchmark their economic and social situations; identify the type of human resources needed to advance their country’s information economy; and calculate the investments needed to provide businesses and the people with access to different ICTs.

The draft regional ICT strategy identifies ICT statistics as a tool to harmonize regional data measurement, collection, and classification systems to assist in monitoring ICT4D in the Caribbean.

For this goal to be realized, the ICT statistics sub-committee recognizes the need for a concerted effort in the region to strengthen the collection and dissemination of relevant data. Efforts also must be made to incorporate ICT measurement in national statistics offices’ work programmes; and to link ICT indicators to policy implementation both at national and regional levels.

At its first meeting in October 2007, the ICT sub-committee developed an action plan to facilitate the development of ICT statistics in the region. The plan was drawn up against the background of the importance of ICT statistics in monitoring the digital divide; in assessing the impact of ICT on growth and development; in improving transparency and accountability in policy-making and in evaluating policy performance in the region.

Through collaboration with the ICT statistics sub-committee, the information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) and the regional statistics programmes of the CARICOM Secretariat, progress was made in defining the scope and definition of the ICT sector of the region; and in identifying a list of Caribbean-specific Indicators.

The indicators, identified under themes including health, culture/creative industry, education and e-commerce will measure, for example, the percentage of health care institutions with Internet access; the number of local businesses in creative industry with web presence; the number of schoolchildren per computer and the number of teachers using ICTs; and the number of businesses with a website and the number of businesses using the Internet to sell their (local) products.

The ICT statistics sub-committee also coordinated an analysis of data on trade in ICT goods as well as the development of a mechanism for data collation and analysis of ICT data of other data sources. In that regard there was a desk analysis of the ICT questions in the 2010 round of population and housing census to determine the effectiveness of this activity’s questions on ICT to procure relevant data.

While the ICT statistics sub-committee identified inconsistencies in the census questions among member states, it determined that the census data was a useful source of key baseline information with regard to ICT.

ICT statistics will become increasingly relevant in making pronouncements on the region’s attainment of specific international ICT targets ranging from connecting villages, educational and research institutions, information resource establishments, health-related and governmental agencies with ICT, to developing content, and providing ICT services to people.

Within the regional context, the draft regional ICT4D strategy outlines a number of goals to be achieved by 2015, which include “an overall growth rate of not less than twenty percent towards ubiquitous access and understanding of digital technologies.”

In addition, the strategy recommends as a target to measure the impact of ICT on the region a “thirty per cent increase in the use of ICT, and cultural content and images to create information in an acceptable format and manner, to lead to tangible benefits for education, work and everyday life.”

Mechanisms in place for measuring ICT4D in CARICOM will be critical in measuring the tangible outcomes of these goals