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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet 2. Introduction The Internet is touted as a revolutionary technology that will change many aspects of our lives. What began as a small computer network for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, has expanded to a global infrastructure. It has gone from service to research and academic communities to serve a broad spectrum of industrial, commercial, and governmental users, bringing together people from different cities and countries and from some of the most remote areas of the earth. Services over the Internet have also expanded from e-mail to the World Wide Web, and Internet software is increasingly being used for communications within organizations (Intranet). In the developed world an ever-increasing share of research, communication, business transactions, and entertainment takes place via the Internet. For the developing world the Internet is considered by many to be a powerful tool for development that will allow countries to leap-frog ahead, economically and socially. Supporters point to the small farming cooperative in an agricultural country, using information technologies to learn about new farming methods and obtain reports on product supply and demand, thereby increasing local exports severalfold and enabling entire villages to prosper; or to the doctor in a rural village, diagnosing and treating a patient with the help of an Internet connection. Supporters would likely agree with the basic premise that economic growth of nations and quality of life of people are dependent on communications. As nations progress, so too will economic growth and quality of life be dependent on the broad use of telephones and in time on electronic mail. Therefore, it is assumed that for Africa to be competitive, the broad development and use of the Internet will evolve. It is easy to be excited about the opportunities offered to developing countries by the Internet and its associated technologies. But hard decisions remain, particularly for policymakers and others decisionmakers faced with many competing priorities. Should expenditures for local-area networks and wide-area networks outweigh investments in roads and rails? In the money-
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet strapped health care sector, where tough tradeoffs must be made, should clinics buy Pentiums or penicillin? Still other projections point to deleterious impacts the Internet is having, and will continue to have, on developing countries. Some see the Internet as a route by which Western values compete and come to substitute for indigenous ones, and they fear the consequences of increased communications ability and access to information coming at the cost of face-to-face, personal interactions. Most people agree that those individuals and countries not connected to the Internet will become isolated and backward. The different scenarios and arguments, the positive and the negative, lead to many questions. Whatever the argument or scenario, the importance of being able to identify, analyze, and quantify the impacts of the Internet on the development of a country is critical to policy design and implementation. Are there enough data to warrant investment in the Internet as distinct from the more basic day-to-day needs of rural or urban people? We need to better understand the kinds of impacts new information technologies are having on our own country and others. The technology and development issues will continue to interest analysts and policymakers for years to come. The findings are likely to be that the Internet has many of the impacts suggested above and many more unintended and unanticipated ones. The important point is that the impacts can be better understood and, to be understood better, an analytical framework for measuring them will be useful. This report begins to provide such an analytical framework. The framework contains indicators that can be used by development agencies, national policymakers, individual users, potential investors, and other interested parties to help assess the impacts of the Internet on various aspects of a country's or a region's development. The indicators are also intended to provide continuity for researchers who are further analyzing and quantifying impacts of the Internet. Which of the indicators are used will depend on who is conducting the analysis and for whose benefit it is being conducted. The framework can be used to shape policies and behaviors
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet with regard to building up new information services. While the framework was developed in the African context, in particular for Senegal and Ghana, it is intended as a broad tool to be applied, with limited customization, to other developing countries as well. The framework discussed in this report considers the Internet as a communications mechanism and-suggests how to analyze the impacts of its introduction and use. It considers but does not focus on the impacts of the Internet's content. That is, for the most part, the indicators are not intended to measure the impacts of any information communicated via the Internet. Getting answers in West Africa to the initial research questions posed by the committee did not prove to be easy. Committee members found a number of challenges to gaining the information and knowledge they sought. For example, in Africa and most other developing countries the Internet is a very new phenomenon, with most people and organizations who use it having at most a year or two of experience (with the exception of basic store and forward electronic mail, which has been used by some for several years). Given their limited experience, people are only now beginning to develop a systematic means of measuring the impacts. Even the most sophisticated Internet service providers (ISPs) and users in Ghana and Senegal are facing more basic issues (e.g., obtaining adequate technical expertise and equipment; navigating the new and often confusing regulations and administrative requirements; putting pressure on the government to deregulate, liberalize, lower prices, etc.). And nonusers may not yet have noticed any significant impacts of not having Internet access. Data about the most basic elements of Internet use were not easy to obtain. Some ISPs or government agencies proved reluctant to share the information they did have. While it is premature to expect systematic evaluations to be in place in Ghana and Senegal, people are certainly conducting informal evaluations. The committee found a lively interest and recognition among Internet users in the utility and importance of some sort of evaluative framework for looking at the Internet. Furthermore, some of the individuals and organizations visited were beginning to pose to themselves the same issues of measuring impacts. For example,
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet one organization that the committee interviewed was contacting its member organizations to ask how the Internet will help them and what they would like to do with it.1 Indeed, committee members were impressed with the openness and enthusiasm they found among organizations to share ideas about this issue. International organizations, for example, have reported decreased communications costs and increased access to materials and information. This for them justifies the investment in Internet access. It is likely that some organizations have done a similar analysis but found the investment too great to offset any potential gains. ORIGIN OF THE STUDY In 1996 the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) asked the National Research Council's (NRC) Office of International Affairs to conduct a series of activities to highlight applications of information and communications technologies to development and to examine ways in which those technologies can help USAID and other development assistance organizations better achieve their goals. The USAID had a specific interest in tools to help assess the Leland Initiative, a five-year $15 million program to extend full Internet connectivity to approximately 20 African countries in order to promote sustainable development. The NRC convened an initial meeting of experts in development, African studies, and Internet and related technologies in March 1997. Following that meeting, the chairman of the NRC appointed a small steering committee to guide the effort. That committee, the Committee on Indicators of Internet Impacts on Development (referred to as the committee here), defined its goal as developing a broad and detailed set of indicators that could be useful for development activities and then sought the views of African and other experts in Ghana and Senegal on the utility of information technology evolution in general and how the Internet has impacted them. 1 Committee meeting with the chief librarian of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa in Senegal.
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet The NRC had already been involved in a series of projects designed to bring information and communications technologies, in particular the Internet, to Africa. Under a project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a 1996 volume of case studies documented some of these efforts, especially individual ones, at bringing information and communications technologies to sub-Saharan Africa.2 The NRC's involvement in these and other activities served to further support the view that development organizations, local policymakers, and indeed many others involved in information technologies were interested in a means of assessing the impacts of the Internet. SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY The committee was aware of other important work in this field, as well as the limited time and resources at its disposal but concluded that it could contribute to the small existing body of actual field research. The committee considered this a serious and intensive, if short, research project. The committee drew upon the large and growing literature on the Internet, its real and anticipated benefits, and Internet connectivity in Africa. For background on the general state of Internet connectivity in Africa, particularly Ghana and Senegal, the committee relied heavily on work by others.3 There is also an increasing literature on the impacts of information and information technologies. The Internet Society, Canada's International Development Research Centre and its Acacia Initiative, the World Bank, the University of Maryland's Center for International Development and Conflict Management, and many other organizations are involved 2 National Research Council, 1996, Bridge Builders: African Experiences with Information and Communication Technology, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Also, the NRC 's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board has conducted a number of studies related to information technologies. 3 Among the individuals and organizations that were valuable in this respect are the Network Startup Research Center, the Internet Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michel Menou with CIDEGI, and the status reports on internet connectivity in Africa by Michael Jensen, and independent consultant.
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet in related studies and projects.4 This report builds on that work and focuses on how to use indicators to analyze impacts of the Internet. It is not intended to be either the first or the final word on the topic but aims to broaden the existing discussions and lead to more in-depth studies. Because of time and resource constraints, committee members did not try to incorporate explicitly all Internet-related technologies and services; nor did they exclude any. Unless otherwise noted, in this report the term Internet5 is used in its broadest sense and refers to Internet technologies and networks, including store-and-forward and e-mail-only networks as well as the World Wide Web and its associated technologies. The committee recognizes that, particularly in Africa where wider applications of the Internet are less common, the term Internet is often used interchangeably with electronic mail. Believing that this research topic is in its early stages and will benefit from ongoing discussion, the NRC and the steering committee strove, from the project's early stages, to disseminate its research directions and findings widely and to gain input from as many knowledgeable people in the field as possible. The committee developed an initial set of draft indicators and then shared them with a larger group of experts, including scientific organizations, U.S.- and African-based Internet service providers, indicator specialists, and others. To gain further input, the committee presented its preliminary indicators at the Global Knowledge '97 4 For example, Canada's International Development Research Centre has been involved in a program to measure the impact of information on development, and Bellanet has an initiative on Learning for Development in the Information Age. 5 The Internet Society defines the Internet as “a global network of networks enabling computers of all kinds to directly and transparently communicate and share services throughout much of the world.” In 1995 the Federal Networking Council passed a resolution agreeing on the following definition of the term Internet: “the global information system that–(i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high-level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein.” See A Brief History of the Internet by Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, and Stephen Wolff at http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.html#Introduction.
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet conference in June 1997 in Toronto. The tremendous interest in the topic at that meeting led to the establishment of an ongoing, on-line discussion of Internet indicators.6 In August 1997 members of the committee traveled to Ghana and Senegal for field research. For the reader unfamiliar with Internet connectivity in Africa, specifically in Ghana and Senegal, background information can be found in Appendix D. In each country committee members arranged meetings with senior government officials and met with representatives from ISPs, nongovernmental organizations, academia, the private sector, and others. A separate trip to Kenya provided additional input for this report. A list of the institutions and individuals visited in Africa is contained in Appendix E. The committee believes that the number of its site visits and meetings in Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya was extensive and provided the committee members with an accurate, albeit somewhat superficial, overview of the situation with respect to the Internet in those countries. The committee emphasizes that the recommended next steps in research on Internet impacts will require studying a wider range of developing countries in Africa and elsewhere and at a more in-depth level. In the countries visited, committee members solicited comments on the preliminary indicators, looked for case studies, and requested answers to the following questions from people they met: How did you (individual/institution) get interested in the Internet? Who within the institution is pushing Internet use? How is the Internet used? What are the tradeoffs of obtaining Internet access? What are the changes in your institution? How is/was the Internet introduced into your institution? 6 An archive of the contributions to this discussion can be read at http://www2.idrc.ca/listproc/inet-impact-1/.
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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet The committee was sensitive to the differences in the scale of Internet usage and diffusion between the United States, which has thousands of ISPs and tens of millions of users, and African countries such as Senegal and Ghana, which have three and nine ISPs, respectively, and only several thousand users each. The committee attempted not to import Western-based models and assumptions into the discussion of developing countries. The committee reached five main conclusions from its meetings, interviews, and field research that it believes merit the attention of those interested in the diffusion of information technologies in developing areas and the associated impacts: There is an expressed need among development agencies, policymakers, Internet service providers and users, and others for some evaluative framework for analyzing Internet impacts. In the countries studied, many individuals and organizations recognize the benefits of having Internet access and consider it a necessity rather than a luxury, even after only a year or two of use, but obstacles remain to widespread use. Barriers to more widespread Internet use can include the high costs of access and poor telephone infrastructure. Patterns for Internet diffusion can be identified and models to describe those patterns proposed. Institutional leadership seems to be a key element in early diffusion. There is an enormous amount of research yet to be undertaken on this topic.
Representative terms from entire chapter: