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Roundtable on Information Society Indicators and Profiles in Western Asia - Beirut 4-5 October 2004

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The roundtable on “Information Society Indicators and Profiles in Western Asia” is the third in a series of meeting planned by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division in ESCWA in 2004, focused on building the information society in Western Asia. The roundtables are part of ESCWA’s regional preparatory activities towards the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be held in Tunis during 16-18 November 2005. The outcome of the roundtable will constitute important material for the Second Western Asia Preparatory Conference for WSIS to be held in Damascus, Syria, during 22-23 November 2004. The roundtable is followed by the Sixth Session of the Statistical Committee of ESCWA, scheduled for 6-8 October 2004.

Building the Information Society (IS) needs to be monitored through a combination of indicators that allow gauging and measurement of progress achieved in this regard. These indicators are intended to assist decision makers in analyzing progress achieved in building the IS as targeted by the WSIS Plan of Action (PoA), in assessing the national and regional capabilities to reap benefits from ICT, and in benchmarking with peer countries. In particular, these indicators are intended to assist policy makers in bridging the digital divide, which, unless appropriately tackled, may exacerbate the social and economic inequality between individuals, communities and countries. The PoA requires that priority be given to setting up coherent and internationally comparable indicator systems, taking into account different levels of development. Furthermore, the final report of the Joint UNECE/UNCTAD/UIS/ITU/OECD/Eurostat Statistical Workshop on Monitoring the Information Society: Data, Measurement and Methods, held in Geneva during 8-9 December 2003, has recommended that “The five UN regional commissions should, in cooperation, with competent regional organizations, commit themselves to organize in 2004, within each region, one ICT-related meeting on monitoring of information society issues. Both users and producers of official statistics should work together in organizing these meetings, which are intended to provide input for a global summary meeting in early 2005 in order to prepare an action plan for the next WSIS summit in Tunis.” The roundtable is being held in accordance with this recommendation.

In recognition of the need for improved data and indicators on IS, a global initiative has been announced in the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XI) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13-18 June 2004. The objective of the initiative, in which ESCWA and the other UN Regional Commissions (RCs) play a key role, is to bring together key stakeholders in the statistical measurement of ICT to create a partnership that aims at closing the data gap at the international level, in particular in developing countries. Acting within its mandate, the RCs prepared a questionnaire aimed at taking inventory in National Statistics Offices (NSOs) of existing and planned indicators, and methods of collecting data about ICT and the IS, that would lead towards standardized definitions and a set of commonly accepted ICT core indicators, as well as help identify NSOs with best practices and those requiring technical assistance to strengthen their capacity in order to develop statistical compilation programmes. Discussion of the questionnaire, analysis of the responses received, and methods for enhancing NSOs’ capacities will constitute a central activity in the roundtable.


This roundtable will aim at:

  1. Catalysing the deployment of ICT indicators in the socioeconomic development process;

  2. Recommending a set of core indicators and indices relevant to all ESCWA member countries and consistent with international indicators and indices;

  3. Recommending suitable methodologies for data collection and processing;

  4. Defining the role of NSOs and other players in developing statistical compilation programmes on the IS, and discussing the means for enhancing NSOs’ capacities;

  5. Elaborating ESCWA’s activities with regard to developing regional and global ICT indicators databases.


The main topics to be covered in the roundtable are:

  1. Criteria for benchmarking and monitoring progress towards goals specified in the WSIS PoA;

  2. Issues related to indicators and indices for measuring and monitoring the main aspects of the IS:

    1. Main aspects of the IS that should be measured;

    2. Inventory of commonly used indicators;

    3. Indicators’ groups and categories;

    4. Core indicators and indices for measuring and monitoring the main aspects of the IS in the ESCWA region.

  3. Issues related to data collection such as:

    1. Basic issues related to data quality, storage and dissemination, and metadata systems;

    2. Model surveys, methods of data collection and statistical processing, statistical and software tools;

    3. nalysis of the responses from NSOs to the questionnaire for collecting metadata on ICT statistics;

    4. Capacity-building for NSOs;

    5. International collaboration and compatibility with international standards.

  4. Issues related to the global database on ICT indicators:

    1. The ESCWA ICT Indicators database;

    2. The ESCWA Web enabled database for metadata on ICT statistics.


Participants to the roundtable will include:

  1. Heads and representatives of NSOs in ESCWA member countries;

  2. Representatives from the entities forming the “Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development”: ITU, OECD, UNCTAD, UNESCO – UIS, UNECA, UNECLAC, UNESCAP, World Bank, and UN ICT Task Force;

  3. ICT, statistics, and other experts from the League of Arab States (LAS) and the ESCWA region whose focus is on ICT indicators and their measurements.


The major expected results from this roundtable are:

  1. Suggested core ICT indicators and indices consistent with international trends;

  2. Suggested common strategy and suitable methodologies for data collection and measurement of indicators.

  3. Regional working group on ICT indicators.


The ICT Division, ESCWA, will organize the event during 4 - 5 October 2004 in the UN House in Beirut, Lebanon. It will include a number of presentations on the above topics, and discussion sessions focusing on the achievement of the expected outcomes. A tentative agenda will be posted on the roundtable's Web page.


Contributions would be in either Arabic or English with an adequate summary in the other language. Simultaneous translation from Arabic to English and vice-versa will be provided.

Additional Information

Any inquiries and requests for additional information regarding participation and substantive matters should be addressed to:

Mr. Ahmed Farahat, Director
ICT Division, ESCWA
PO Box 11-8575, Beirut, Lebanon
Email: farahat@un.org
Tel: +961-1-981301 ext 1549
Fax: +961-1-981510

Inquiries regarding logistics, including travel, and accommodation should be directed to:

Ms. Zahr Bou-Ghanem, Research Assistant
ICT Division, ESCWA
PO Box 11-8575, Beirut, Lebanon
Email: bou-ghanem@un.org
Tel: +961-1-978544
Fax: +961-1-981510


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