ICTs, SDGs, and existing data gaps for measuring progress

12 Nov 2020 17:10h - 18:40h

Event report

The panel discussed a roadmap for different actors involved in addressing data gaps for sustainable development, their roles, responsibilities, and incentives.

Mr Christopher Yoo (University of Pennsylvania) moderated the session. He shaped the session through rounds of questions for the panellists.

  • Why is data so important?

Data matters when it comes to measuring success and achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It is important to inform decisions and reduce inequality, said Ms Anne Delaporte (Senior Insights Manager, Connected Society, Mobile for Development, GSMA). For Ms Lorrayne Porciuncula (Economist and Policy Analyst on Communications Infrastructure and Service, Internet and Jurisdiction) data is a key asset. It matters for informing business decisions, governments when it comes to policy-making, or civil society when it works on empowerment either individuals or collectives. To decide on public policies it is important to understand where the market failure is or the type of intervention needed. That cannot be done without data. Mr Antonio Garcia Zabellos (Lead Specialist on telecommunications in Institutions for Development, member of the steering committee, IEEE) noted that access to such data provides useful information for understanding the starting point, but also for defining policies, as well as understanding the infrastructure gap, both at the state and regional levels.

  • If it is so important why is it so hard to get data and why is it never enough?

It is not about collecting more data but about the right data for the right purpose, said Delaporte. It is important to understand exactly what data is needed to measure progress. It is important to have indicators. Usually, very generic indicators are currently being used to compare countries. However it is not enough to discuss only Internet access, because ‘the Internet is much more granular’, said Porciuncula. There is a lack of required institutional framework in terms of the mandate that regulators have, to inform evidence-based policy-making. The mandate is usually resolved in developed countries, which is not the case in developing countries. There is a lack of human capacity in both technical and policy fields, as well as a lack of co-operation between multiple stakeholders. Zabellos identified two major concerns: 1. institutional framework 2. ability to analyse and exploit information.

  • What is the data we are not getting but we need the most – where is the gap in terms of data we are collecting?

There is a challenge with data that can be used for bridging the rural digital divide, said Porciuncula. This type of data is available in the European Union . However, in many other countries there is no standardisation in national broadband countries and no way to measure it. Speed in many countries is not satisfactory. The data on quality, robustness of network, user profiles needs is also lacking in many countries. Zabellos said that they are trying to collect the information about infrastructure (electricity, telecoms, railways, etc) by which they can provide Internet services and Internet access. Often not even governments have this information.

  • How do you align incentives for an incumbent? How do you overcome the understandable reluctance of private companies?

Zabellos said that incentives are about someone gaining something. It is not about social but financial return. When it comes to designing a strategy, it is important to focus on giving subsidies, otherwise operators will not be interested.

  • What role does data play in terms of gender (and digital skills)?

Governments often do not have data concerning the digital gender gap. However, in their experience, governments are interested in having this information and acting upon it. Therefore, the experience, when it comes to co-operation between the GSMA, the private sector, and governments on this issue is positive, said Delaporte. ‘It is not just about including one additional column about women but it is about representation’, said Porciuncula. Surveys do not usually raise the question of how safe women feel in cyberspace, of the entire eco-space of the digital activities they carry, as well as of women’s capabilities and skills. However, women are subjected to data collection about their body, health, etc. Delaporte noted a big gap when it comes to digital skills in developing countries or rural areas, or women.

All the panellists agreed that it is important to foster trust between different actors when it comes to co-operation.