In addition to hardware and software costs and others noted in previous sections, effective use of the Internet entails support costs, which in the United States include help lines and information officers in the organization. In fact, little is known about the true costs to organizations of the Internet. ISPs have complex pricing policies and are reluctant to disseminate information on income from clients. Typically accounting processes in firms do not provide reports on costs (or benefits) of Internet use. (Indeed, measuring the contribution of information technology to productivity is a major challenge for economists today.) Development of methods would be needed to make such reports possible. Yet in Africa the costs of the Internet will be critical in determining the rate of diffusion of the technology and the priority that should be assigned to it. Case studies of the costs of Internet use in typical enterprises, NGOs, and government agencies should be given priority.
Use versus nonuse of the Internet. An area requiring additional research is the effects of growth of the Internet on nonusers. Penetration of the Internet is occurring so quickly and is already so great that it will affect even those who cannot or choose not to connect. People in countries who do not have access to the Internet when large numbers of others do or who live in a country that does not have the Internet when competing nations do will feel certain effects of that nonuse.
Public policy and Internet development. A topic the committee finds to require further research is the role of public policy and what policies seem to work best in supporting the development of the Internet. The rush of new communications technologies is forcing governments, employers, and users to alter their perceptions and policies on a host of public policy issues. For example, increased attention is being paid to issues of privacy and the boundaries between public and private information, and the shift away from governments as producers and owners of broadcasting and telecommunications and sometimes the press.