WIA Report

2006 report: Five Findings; Five Implications

Finding 1.
Key computing and communication technologies are more concentrated in a few countries, not less concentrated. Between 1995 and 2005, mobile phones and Internet access diffused widely around the world, whether this diffusion is measured among 6 billion people or among 200 countries. Today, the supply of computers, Internet hosts, and secure servers are even more concentrated among select core countries. [Patterns of International Inequality]

Consumer markets for information technology may bring innovative new products to many parts of the world, but markets are not doing so evenly, despite the booming production of ever cheaper computers. If the digital divide is measured in computer access, the divide is getting worse. If the digital divide is measured by cellphone connectivity, the divide is getting better.

Finding 2.
Civil society around the world has embraced the Internet. Over the last ten years, nearly 10,000 civic groups in 152 countries asserted their digital presence. More than twice as many civic groups around the world created a website between 2000 and 2004 as compared to the previous five-year period. [Civil Society Online]

In poor countries, the majority of civic groups are managed from more developed countries. The Internet may be changing that. In most countries, the number of online domestic civic groups is growing faster than the number of international civic groups working within those country.

Finding 3.
The design and manufacture of information technology still occurs in a small core group of countries. Since 1994, ten core countries have consistently accounted for almost 75 percent of the value of annual world exports in telecommunications equipment. Outside these core IT producers, 9 of every 10 countries averaged a negative trade balance over the decade and were primarily IT importers. [Latin America's Mobile Phone Services; IT Balance of Trade]

Most of the world is dependant on core countries to develop new information technologies. Not only do the majority of countries not have much of an indigenous IT industry, but they lack the capacity to maintain their existing IT infrastructure on their own.

Finding 4.
People in developing countries – especially countries in Latin America – are putting more cultural content online than they are pouring into books. Between 1997 and 2003, book production increased by 44 percent, while web host production increased six times over. [Cultural Content Online]

Even though the majority of people in developing countries do not have regular internet access, a huge amount of cultural production from those countries is going online.

Finding 5.
Internet access in the world’s mega cities is still a luxury for most residents, and in most of these cities, going online means paying to tap into western culture. In nine of the 24 most populated cities, the average person spends at least 10 percent of their daily income for an hour of Internet access at a commercial access point such as a cybercafé. Eight of the 24 most populated cities are in countries with proportionally fewer website hosts. Comparatively, there is more online gaming in the large cities of rich countries than the large cities of poorer countries. [Spending More, Seeing Less]

Not only is Internet access still a luxury, but people in rich countries get more for the dollars they spend on Internet access. For example, people in London or New York spend a small portion of their daily income on Internet access, and find a significant amount of content in English and of cultural interest. But when people in Cairo or Jakarta spend a large portion of their daily income on Internet access, they find relatively less cultural content on national domains or in their language (such as .eg and .id websites, respectively).