GeoWorld November 2012

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The Web Index 2012: Lessons for a GIS Index in 2013? EDGENODES R ecently, the World Wide Web Foundation published the Web Index 2012 (thewebindex. org/2012/09/2012-Web-Index-Key-Findings. pdf), which combines new primary data from a survey with secondary data. The index's goal is to rank countries according to their "progress and use of the Web." In this first-ever survey, 61 countries were included, although the publishers hope to expand the list to about 100. Of the countries included in the 2012 survey, 18 were from Africa, nine from the Americas (including all three North BY NIGEL WATERS American countries: United States, Canada and Mexico), 14 from the Asia/Pacific region, 15 from Europe (including the United Kingdom (UK)), and five countries from the Middle East and Central Asia. How the Data Were Gathered These countries primarily were chosen because of data availability. Primary data collection involved finding and paying recognized in-country experts to score the survey's questions. Secondary data came from a number of highly regarded sources, including the United Nations, Freedom House, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the International Telecommunication Union, the CIA World Factbook, the International Energy Agency (for electricity availability), Reporters without Borders and the Wikimedia Foundation, among others. Survey data were gathered only during 2011, but the secondary data were gathered from 2007-2011. The recruited organizations had to be reliable, producing data on a multi-year basis for at least two thirds of the included countries to show cross-country consistency. Nigel Waters, editor of Cartographica, is a professor of geography and director for the Center of Excellence for Geographic Information Science, George Mason University; e-mail: 12 Figure 1. A graphic indicates the scores for the United States on the seven components of the Web Index ( electricity; Internet bandwidth availability (megabits per second per user) and the percentage of broadband subscribers and households with computers; mobile phones per capita; Internet subscriptions; cell-phone affordability and cellular-network coverage; an index of press freedom; expected number of years of schooling and literacy rates; Internet servers per person; tertiary education rates. There also were survey questions on access to digital content, the extent of business adoption of new technology, freedom of the press, quality of education, school Internet access, the burden of government regulation, importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in government's vision, and government prioritization of ICT. 2. WU/WC: Percentage of population using the Internet, indices of government online services, public participation in these services, and a survey question on the number of Wikipedia articles in the local language. 3. S&EDI: ICT as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Survey questions for this sub-index included a question on the use of virtual social networks; the impact of ICT on citizens' access to basic services and business-organization models, services and products; extent of business Internet use; and the extent to which ICT use had increased government efficiency. Primary data collection involved a survey that had 256 questions (many of which had two or three parts) that helped construct the indices. How the Index Was Constructed The composite index was composed of three sub-indices: 1. Communications and Institutional Infrastructure (C&I) 2. Web Use and Web Content (WU/WC) 3. Political, Social and Economic/Developmental Impact (S&EDI) Secondary data for these sub-indices included the following: 1. C&I: Information on political rights and civil liberties; the proportion of population with access to G E O W O R L D / N O V E M B E R 2 O 1 2 Index Problems Any such index has two major difficulties. First, there's concern over how many questions and subindices are used to represent the impact of a given aspect of the Web Index. Two, three or more similar questions will lead to double or triple counting (i.e., weighting one aspect too heavily). The second problem is the weighting of the three sub-indices. The report's authors gave a weighting of 0.2 to the Readiness sub-index (one-third to Government Special Issue

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