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[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]

This session highlighted the work of the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development of the Task Group on ICT for the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which was launched at the 2017 WSIS Forum. The task group aims to propose a thematic list of information and communication technology (ICT) indicators that could be relevant for the measurement of the SDGs, but that are not covered in the global SDG indicators framework.

In his opening remarks, Mr Cosmas Zavazava, from the Chief PKM Department of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), presented the ITU’s work in measuring the information society through its ICT Development Index; a tool for member states to identify progress and compare themselves to other countries. Zavazava emphasised the importance of collaboration with other organisations to share ideas in developing the index, especially considering the fast pace of technological development which can make it difficult to keep the index up to date.

Moderator Mr Alexandre Barbosa, head of the Center of Studies for Information and Communication Technologies, highlighted the substantial contribution of ICTs in the implementation and measurement of all SDGs, which has not been sufficiently recognised in the current targets and indicators. The task group addresses this gap by proposing ICT indicators that could contribute to the measurement of progress towards the SDGs and complement the existing measurement framework. Ms Esperanza Magpantay, senior statistician at the ITU, added that besides the development of a framework, the task group will prepare a methodology document for the ICT indicators, engage in awareness raising of the indicators, compile and disseminate the data on a continuous basis, and prepare regular quantitative assessments of the ICT indicators. She provided several examples of ICT indicators that could be used to measure SDG targets, such as measuring the capacity of financial institutions to expand access to banking (target 8.10) by using Internet banking data.

Next, the session focused on three thematic areas: e-waste, e-government, and business indicators. On the topic of e-waste, Magpantay shared the guidelines on e-waste statistics, which includes three e-waste indicators:

  1. Total electrical and electronic equipment put on the market
  2. Total e-waste generated
  3. Total e-waste collected

These indicators have recently been complemented by the e-waste collection rate (the share of collected e-waste out of the total e-waste that is generated), which could be used as an indicator for a number of SDG targets.

Mr Vicenzo Aquaro, chief of the e-government branch of the United Nations department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), provided an overview of UNDESA’s E-government Development Index, which includes indicators related to online services, telecommunication infrastructure, and human capital. The advent of the SDGs led to an update of the methodology of the index, to better align it with the goals, and in particular goal 16. The indicators that are already measured for the index could be used by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development. Mr Deniz Susar, Governance and Public Administration Officer at UNDESA, provided further details about the index, as well as specific examples of e-government indicators that could be used for monitoring the SDGs, such as measuring the protection of labour rights (target 8.8) by the ability to report violations of labour laws through e-government.

Ms Scarlett Fondeur Gil, economic affairs officer at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), explained how business-related ICT indicators could be relevant for the measurement of the SDGs. For example, financial inclusion (target 8.3) could be measured by the proportion of businesses using the Internet for financial services. In addition, e-commerce-related indicators could be used to measure the participation of least developed countries in the global economy. Fondeur Gil announced that these topics will be further discussed at the UNCTAD E-commerce Week, which will be taking place in April 2018.

Finally, Mr Ramiz Uddin, head of results management and data at the Access to Information Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh, provided a view of a government tasked to harness the potential of ICTs for the SDGs. He noted that there are many ICT-related indices, including the ITU’s ICT Development Index and UNDESA’s E-government Development Index, and that they are important in tracking progress. He furthermore shared examples of projects implemented by Bangladesh to capture the possibilities for ICTs in implementing the SDGs. Yet, there are a number of challenges to be mitigated, including the coordination among stakeholders, the cooperation between the public and private sectors, raising awareness on the role of ICTs in the SDGs, and the scarcity of baseline data.

The discussion focused on various aspects of measuring the SDGs through ICT indicators, including the need for capacity building and digital literacy skills, and the importance of clearly communicating the definitions and methodologies that are necessary for the collection of data. Some pointed out the challenges related to data availability and disaggregation, raising the question of the potential of new sources of data to complement existing data collection efforts. One participant noted that data is quickly outdated, and recommended the inclusion of near-real-time data whenever it is available. Yet, the analyses of new data sources require capacity building in data science, and it can be difficult to obtain this data if it is held by companies that are reluctant to share it, due to confidentiality issues and business interests. Closing the session, Barbosa invited the participants to continue the discussion by joining the discussion on the task group on ICTs for the SDGs.


By Barbara Rosen Jacobson