Measuring the Impacts of Information and Communication Technology for Development


UNCTAD (2011). Measuring the Impacts of Information and Communication Technology for Development. Current Studies on Science, Technology and Innovation. Nº 3. Geneva: UNCTAD. Retrieved May 03, 2011 from

Work data:

ISBN: 978-92-1-054154-1

Type of work: Report


Development | e-Readiness | ICT4D


This paper explores why measuring the impacts of information and communication technology (ICT) is important for development – and why it is statistically challenging. Measuring impacts in any field is difficult, but for ICT there are added complications because of its diversity and rapidly changing nature. A number of impact areas are identified in section 1, and their relationships explored, in the context of their place in the social, economic and environmental realms. The result is a complex web of relationships between individual impact areas, such as economic growth and poverty alleviation, and background factors, such as a country’s level of education and government regulation.

Existing measurement frameworks are described in section 1, and relevant statistical standards examined. The latter includes internationally agreed standards for the ICT sector, ICT products and ICT demand. The contribution of the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development and its member organizations to ICT measurement, and its goals for measuring ICT impacts are outlined.

Methodologies used in the measurement of ICT are discussed and compared in section 2 of the paper, and empirical evidence reviewed, in section 3. Most research conducted has found positive effects of ICT in the impact areas investigated. However, research has tended to focus on positive, rather than negative impacts; therefore, the latter tend to be indicated by anecdotal evidence. There is relatively little evidence from developing countries and there are indications that findings in respect of developed countries may not apply to developing countries. In respect of both developed and developing countries, there are few studies that provide internationally comparable evidence.

The difficulties of ICT impact measurement, major data gaps and the lack of clear statistical standards suggest several issues for consideration. These are presented in the final section of the paper.