e-Readiness in post-conflict and developing countries: a reflection (part I)

That someone with Marc Lepage‘s profile and experience asks for my opinion on several subjects related to e-Readiness is, to say the least, quite a compliment.

Questions are many but can be grouped in two:

  • Are there any e-readiness models to be followed to draw Information Society strategies?
  • What methodology would be more applicable in post-conflict countries: an existing one (for the sake of comparability) or a customized one?

These issues are really broad and I don’t think there is one solution but many, so I decided to write my thoughts here so other people can join and bring their insights.

e-Readiness models and Information Society strategies

Let’s put this really short. Nowadays, there are:

  • e-readiness indices, collections of indicators and rankings, to measure the state of development (as defined by the authors of such measuring tools) of the Information Society, normally at the country level
  • e-readiness guides or assessment methodologies to help, on a check-list basis, to determine the strengths and weaknesses in Information Society matters and, hence, serve as an inspiration to design your own strategy.

The main problem is that indices and guides do not go hand in hand. On one hand, indices are really global, mainly designed for developed countries, with a strong bias towards infrastructures and, most important, present a snapshot of isolated indicators, not providing the relationship — and causability — among them. On the other hand, guides are (usually) old (came up with the digital divide fever from the first years of the XXIst century), focused in just one aspect (usually e-commerce) and do not provide measuring tools (i.e. they are not necessarily using the same concepts as e-readiness indices.)

Concerning e-readiness models and assessment guides, there are many, but here comes a short selection:

Some indices
Some guides

So, trying to have a comprehensive tool would require to choose one guide and see how to use the several existing indices and indicators to measure the variables appearing in your guide. Or, instead, you can go your own way and try to obtain your own data, either because it is published by national statistics agencies or because you can collect them on your own. In the first case, it is likely that national agencies already provide all relevant data to e.g. ITU or OECD or they are not collecting it. In the second case, surveys are really expensive. If you do it just once, you won’t be able to analyze trends and impact of your strategies. If you do it several times, highest costs might make preferable to adapt your analysis to existing data than try and collect them without help. A mid-way solution is, of course, engage the national statistics agency and help them in their work (e.g. in the design).

Nevertheless, as said there are limitations in both measuring tools and assessment and strategy guides, namely

  • Bias towards infrastructures.
  • Sectoral focus, normally in e-Commerce or e-Government.
  • Lack of focus in digital content and services.
  • Poor data in digital literacy.
  • Poor data in regulation and the legal framework.
  • Lack of cross-data analysis (e.g. to see what’s the relationship between existence of installed capacity and digital literacy, or digital literacy and intensity of use of digital public services) necessary to establish priorities and road-maps.
  • Bias towards developed countries’ focused strategies: context is usually provided from a western/developed point of view
  • Bias towards state-of-the-art technology: goals and optimums are usually set on a basis of best-technology-available, not most-suitable-technology

[continues in e-Readiness in post-conflict and developing countries: a reflection (part II)].

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “e-Readiness in post-conflict and developing countries: a reflection (part I)” In ICTlogy, #55, April 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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