Communications capabilities profiles

All countries are working towards enhancing their citizens’ access to modern communications technology. Rapid technological and market change mean that relevant objectives are constantly being raised, and are becoming more complex.  For example:
•    Universal telephony access still means a public phone per village (progressing from larger to smaller villages), but public phones also encompass shared phones (whether shared commercially or informally);
•    Universal telephony service still means a private phone per household (progressing from higher income to lower income households), but telephony now often includes text messaging, which matters to some users (e.g., the hearing impaired); and
•    Universal Internet access still means a public access point per larger population centre (progressing from larger to smaller towns), but data rates now form a vital consideration, with broadband becoming the new norm, and Internet access by mobile phone making a growing contribution.

The relevant targets are increasingly inter-related, for example, public phone targets might be relaxed if high private phone take-up is achieved.

Important aspects that are not always monitored include:
•    How far actual use of these facilities is encouraged (or deterred) by call or session pricing; and
•    People’s motivation and capacity to make positive use of the Internet, where public access is available (which in turn depends both on appropriate content and on the end user’s education and confidence).

Presenting a reasonably simple yet accurate overview of a country’s situation in all these dimensions, to permit a sensible assessment of needs and priorities, gets ever more challenging. Methods of presenting a clear picture of the county’s current communications status include indexes (like the Digital Opportunity Index) that average achievement across many dimensions to present a single simple number and spider diagrams that represent several dimensions on a par with each other, stressing their independence.

The over-arching objective of all these efforts is not simply to provide technology access to citizens, but to enable people to communicate.  Individuals usually acquire capabilities progressively, in keeping both with growing technology availability and their own patterns of learning and behaviour change. So, another way to represent progress could be through a communications capability profile, which estimates the proportion of the population (or the population over 15 years old) with increasing capability levels. An example with six levels of communications capabilities is shown below.
Figure: Examples of communications capability explanations
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Source: Antelope Consulting
Terms like emergency and frequent, need to be defined in terms of local social norms.

When each capability builds on the previous one, the proportions of the population having a capability decrease as the capability levels increase, as in the example profile below.
Figure: An example of a communications capability profile

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Source: Antelope Consulting
The proportions could be estimated through direct surveys, or as in the example of definitions below, derived from factors such as the measured availability of facilities.
Figure: Examples of communications capability definitions
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Source: Antelope Consulting

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