The World Information Access Project is an international team of researchers dedicated to investigating global trends in technology distribution, information security, and personal privacy. The researchers look for practical ways to improve equity in information access and for ways to use communications technologies to improve the quality of our economic, political, and cultural lives.
Perspective. Many countries are modernizing, but throughout the last decade important patterns of dependency and underdevelopment have taken shape. Our goal is to understand the sources and consequences of social inequality in the information age. We argue that dialogue about the information society needs to move from metrics of network readiness to values of economic innovation, political engagement and cultural representation.
Occasion. In 1995, the Federal Networking Council formally defined the term “Internet” as a global information system that is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP); able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite; and provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high-level services layered on the communications infrastructure. That same year, the National Science Foundation defunded the NSFNET backbone, effectively privatizing the Internet by competitively redistributing funds to regional networks that could buy national-scale Internet connectivity from the growing number of private, long-haul networks. These two events–formally defining the Internet and opening the infrastructure to development in the market–helped launch the communications infrastructure for a nascent information society. Over a decade later, we ask: how has the information society fared?
Domain. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are an increasingly important to national politics, economics and culture. Such technologies transmit knowledge and experience, as well as misinformation: telephones, cell phones, the internet, print and electronic media, computer hardware and software, television and radio. The mission of the World Information Access Project is to present data to show the relatively unequal distribution of ICTs and technology access within and between countries. At the same time, this annual report will highlight the growth and achievements of countries in the creative use of information technology for extending state capacity, political engagement, economic transparency and cultural exploration. A significant amount of the research we do is original and combines existing data from traditional sources in innovative ways. On principle, we publish the raw spreadsheets and calculations that support our analysis of the latest trends.
Goal. The goal of the World Information Access Project is to provide a current, straightforward and accessible analysis of important world trends. We hope the findings of this report will contribute to the current academic debate regarding technology access as it relates to development. More important, we hope to impart technical knowledge to developing countries, provide substantial evidence to inspire policymaking and policy change, and make an impact in the fight to minimize the unequal distribution of technological resources around the world.