UN agencys report finds a lack of data perpetuates the worlds digital

A lack of data on the amount of access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in poorer countries is maintaining the digital divide between rich and poor, according to a report unveiled today by the United Nations telecommunication agency.The report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), released in Geneva, found that 60 per cent of all Internet user surveys are conducted in the wealthiest countries, while not a single survey has been carried out in the 59 poorest economies.In a statement issued by the ITU, the report’s author, Michael Minges, head of the ITU’s Market, Economic and Finance Unit, said “a close link exists between the digital and statistical divide.”The report, “ITU World Telecommunication Development Report 2003,” noted that countries that best understand their population’s access to ICTs have been able to tailor their policies to match, citing the Republic of Korea as an example.A toolkit has been developed by the ITU to help governments in poorer countries measure their public’s access to ICTs, showing how 23 indicators – such as the percentage of households with a personal computer, or the number of main telephone lines per 100 inhabitants – can provide a detailed picture of the situation.The ITU said its report also demonstrates how ICTs can help countries work towards the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, targets against poverty, disease and other social problems set by the world’s heads of state in 2000.The report has been released just ahead of the first World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which is being held in Geneva, and aims to improve access to ICTs in poorer countries. read more

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