Friday, February 1, 2008

The ITU's Digital Opportunity Index--Korea Ranks Number One in the World

For the past several years, South Korea has ranked number one in the world on the ITU's Digital Opportunity Index (DOI). For that reason alone it is worth understanding what this index is and what it measures. The index is based on 11 ICT indicators, grouped in 3 clusters: opportunity, infrastructure and utilization, as illustrated in the accompanying graphic (click the graphic for larger version).

Moreover, the DOI is an outgrowth of the World Summit on the Information Society meetings organized by the ITU. Among the dominant concerns at these meetings was the digital divide and the degree to which developing as well as developed nations could achieve digital opportunity. In the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, participants decided that, in an ideal world, digital opportunity would mean:

  • The whole population having easy access to ICTs at affordable prices;
  • All homes equipped with ICT devices;
  • All citizens having mobile ICT devices; and
  • Everyone using broadband.

As one can see from a glance at the world map, digital opportunity currently varies greatly from country to country and regionally. A couple of points deserve to be emphasized about South Korea's world-leading ranking on the DOI index. First, the index contains a strong measure of infrastructure. The presence and pervasiveness of an infrastructure, or we might say the ubiquity of a network, is a necessary precondition for the equitable flow of information among all citizens in an information society. Second, the "opportunity" which concerns the ITU is opportunity for all citizens, to access information, not simply the question of whether the new networks contribute to economic growth. Third, this index does not incorporate measures of literacy and education, but the inclusion of such data would in all likelihood bolster South Korea's standing. Fourth and finally, one would hope that somehow an index like DOI could be related to the language in which information is accessed, processed and used. The incoming administration in Seoul argues that English has become the lingua franca and therefore Korea needs to mount a major effort to improve English ability precisely in order to improve productivity. If 90 percent of the information on the internet today is in English, is fluency in that language a pre-requisite to true digital opportunity?

No comments:

Post a Comment