Initiatives connecting the unconnected: Where’s the data?

6 Dec 2016 13:00h - 14:30h

Event report

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Moderator Mr Alexandre Barbosa, Head of the Center of Studies for Information and Communications Technologies (, introduced the panel for the workshop, adding that the session would focus on ways in which that data gap can be bridged. He highlighted the impact of ICTs in achieving the UN SDGs, and identified data as a crosscutting enabler for development. He further added that ICTs can also help monitor success in poverty alleviation, education, economic growth, and inclusive information and knowledge societies. Barbosa added that government needs to have reliable data to frame reliable policies; and that the collection and measurement of data are key, but universal barriers like affordability, digital literacy, and lack of interest affect processes.

Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director of Research, ICT Africa, added that many jurisdictions do not even have access to service side data, making policy formulation difficult. She highlighted the shortage of national statistical data and the need to identify data as a common good, open and free for everyone.  She observed that highly imperfect supply side data and highly flawed demand side data are leading to policies that have conflicting claims, and stressed the need for nationwide representative, public, demand-supply side statistics which can capture the dynamic and complex environment. Especially for developing countries, it is important to understand the complementary nature of data, and how we can leverage public and private data to best use.

Adding to the discussion, Mr Rajan Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India, presented the case of demonetisation in India that has highlighted the digital divide that exists within Indian society. He then presented the case of the national identity scheme that brings people into the digital sphere, and the role of the government in supporting people to embrace change. He also highlighted that governments need to be proactive and balance the concerns of industry and its interests.

Mr Hernan Galperin, Professor, University of Southern California, stated that demand side data is key to understanding the magnitude of the challenge and highlighted that data exists, but it is not visible, and the lack of coordination between different agencies makes it difficult to use the available data.

Mr Moctar Yedaly, ‎Head Information Society Division, African Union Commission, stressed the need to have evidence-based policy making, enabled with reliable, on time, appropriate data, tailored to the needs and specifics of the country. Particularly in the case of cybersecurity, most of this data come from the USA, and there is a need for Africa-specific data for Africa-specific policies. Ms Helani Galpaya, COO, LIRNEasia, criticised operators and research think tanks from outside of Asia for making inferences with no understanding of the local content, and thereby presenting flawed research studies. She added that household data has been beneficial in reaching key policy decisions, and presented the case of Myanmar, which, she noted, cannot be applied to India, given the diversity that exists in the Asian region.

Ms María Elena Estavillo Flores, Commissioner, Mexican Telecommunications Institute, presented her work for the government, and explained how the cooperation between regulators and the national statistics office has proven beneficial in framing effective policies.

The panel presented diverse views and mixed opinions on how to extract and leverage data. The panel acknowledged the role of funding in limiting or extending the use of data.

by Krishna Kumar Rajamannar, Internet Society India – Chennai Chapter