Infrastructure is the missing link of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Infrastructure--the basic framework for delivering energy, transport, water and sanitation, and information and communication technology services to people--directly or indirectly affects people's lives everywhere. That relationship is reflected in the MDGs. Yet only two MDG targets touch on infrastructure services: water and sanitation (target 7.C) and telephones and the Internet (target 8.F); energy and transport are missing entirely. And no goal or target addresses the comprehensive role of infrastructure in achieving the MDGs.

Although income influences performance on the MDGs, it has long been recognized that growth in productivity and incomes and improvements in health and education outcomes require investment in infrastructure. The MDGs are designed to make economic growth more inclusive. Since a large share of people live in rural areas, often far from employment opportunities, policies to reduce poverty require investment in infrastructure and transport. By improving productivity, investments in infrastructure reduce poverty. Access to clean water and sanitation reduces infant mortality. Electricity powers the hospitals and refrigerators for vaccines. Roads in rural areas boost school attendance and use of medical clinics. And information and communication technologies can improve teacher training and promote better health practices.

Transport services

Data for transport sectors are not always internationally comparable. Unlike for demographic statistics, national income accounts, and international trade data, the collection of infrastructure data has not been “internationalized.” But data on roads are collected by the International Road Federation (IRF) and data on air transport by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

National road associations are the primary source of IRF data. In countries where a national road association is lacking or does not respond, other agencies are contacted, such as road directorates, ministries of transport or public works, or central statistical offices. As a result, definitions and data collection methods and quality differ, and the compiled data are of uneven quality. Moreover, the quality of transport service (reliability, transit time, and condition of goods delivered) is rarely measured, though it may be as important as quantity in assessing an economy’s transport system.

Unlike the road sector, where numerous qualified motor vehicle operators can operate anywhere on the road network, railways are a restricted transport system with vehicles confined to a fixed guideway. Considering the cost and service characteristics, railways generally are best suited to carry—and can effectively compete for—bulk commodities and containerized freight for distances of 500–5,000 kilometers, and passengers for distances of 50–1,000 kilometers. Below these limits road transport tends to be more competitive, while above these limits air transport for passengers and freight and sea transport for freight tend to be more competitive. The railways indicators in the table focus on scale and output measures: total route-kilometers, passenger-kilometers, and goods (freight) hauled in ton-kilometers.

Measures of port container traffic, much of it commodities of medium to high value added, give some indication of economic growth in a country. But when traffic is merely transshipment, much of the economic benefit goes to the terminal operator and ancillary services for ships and containers rather than to the country more broadly. In transshipment centers empty containers may account for as much as 40 percent of traffic.

The air transport data represent the total (international and domestic) scheduled traffic carried by the air carriers registered in a country. Countries submit air transport data to ICAO on the basis of standard instructions and definitions issued by ICAO. In many cases, however, the data include estimates by ICAO for non-reporting carriers. Where possible, these estimates are based on previous submissions supplemented by information published by the air carriers, such as flight schedules.

The data cover the air traffic carried on scheduled services, but changes in air transport regulations in Europe have made it more difficult to classify traffic as scheduled or nonscheduled. Thus recent increases shown for some European countries may be due to changes in the classification of air traffic rather than actual growth. For countries with few air carriers or only one, the addition or discontinuation of a home-based air carrier may cause significant changes in air traffic.

Power and communications

Electric power
An economy’s production and consumption of electricity are basic indicators of its size and level of development. Although a few countries export electric power, most production is for domestic consumption. Expanding the supply of electricity to meet the growing demand of increasingly urbanized and industrialized economies without incurring unacceptable social, economic, and environmental costs is one of the great challenges facing developing countries.

Data on electric power production and consumption are collected from national energy agencies by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and adjusted by the IEA to meet international definitions. Electricity consumption is equivalent to production less power plants’ own use and transmission, distribution, and transformation losses less exports plus imports. It includes consumption by auxiliary stations, losses in transformers that are considered integral parts of those stations, and electricity produced by pumping installations. Where data are available, it covers electricity generated by primary sources of energy— coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, wind, tide and wave, and combustible renewables. Neither production nor consumption data capture the reliability of supplies, including breakdowns, load factors, and frequency of outages.

Telecommunications—access and use of telephones
Over the past decade new financing and technology, along with privatization and liberalization, have spurred dramatic growth in telecommunications in many countries. With the rapid development of mobile telephony and the global expansion of the Internet, information and communication technologies are increasingly recognized as essential tools of development, contributing to global integration and enhancing public sector effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency. The table presents telecommunications indicators covering access and use, quality, and affordability and efficiency.

Access to telephone services rose on an unprecedented scale over the past 15 years. This growth was driven primarily by wireless technologies and liberalization of telecommunications markets, which have enabled faster and less costly network rollout. In 2002 the number of mobile phones in the world surpassed the number of fixed telephones. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that there are about 5 billion mobile subscriptions globally. No technology has ever spread faster around the world. Mobile communications have a particularly important impact in rural areas. The mobility, ease of use, flexible deployment, and relatively low and declining rollout costs of wireless technologies enable them to reach rural populations with low levels of income and literacy. The next billion mobile subscribers will consist mainly of the rural poor.

Access is the key to delivering telecommunications services to people. If the service is not affordable to most people, then goals of universal usage will not be met. Two indicators of telecommunications affordability are presented in the table: fixed-line telephone service tariff and prepaid mobile cellular service tariff. Telecommunications efficiency is measured by total telecommunications revenue divided by GDP and by mobile cellular and fixed-line telephone subscribers per employee.

Operators have traditionally been the main source of telecommunications data, so information on subscribers has been widely available for most countries. This gives a general idea of access, but a more precise measure is the penetration rate—the share of households with access to telecommunications. During the past few years more information on information and communication technology use has become available from household and business surveys. Also important are data on actual use of telecommunications equipment. Ideally, statistics on telecommunications (and other information and communications technologies) should be compiled for all three measures: subscription and possession, access, and use. The quality of data varies among reporting countries as a result of differences in regulations covering data provision and availability.

Information technology and communications

The digital and information revolution has changed the way the world learns, communicates, does business, and treats illnesses. New information and communications technologies (ICT) offer vast opportunities for progress in all walks of life in all countries— opportunities for economic growth, improved health, better service delivery, learning through distance education, and social and cultural advances.

Comparable statistics on access, use, quality, and affordability of ICT are needed to formulate growth-enabling policies for the sector and to monitor and evaluate the sector’s impact on development. Although basic access data are available for many countries, in most developing countries little is known about who uses ICT; what they are used for (school, work, business, research, government); and how they affect people and businesses. The global Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development is helping to set standards, harmonize information and communications technology statistics, and build statistical capacity in developing countries.

Newspapers and television
Data on daily newspapers in circulation are from United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics surveys on circulation, online newspapers, journalists, community newspapers, and news agencies.

Estimates of households with television are derived from household surveys. Some countries report only the number of households with a color television set, and so the true number may be higher than reported.

Personal computers and the Internet
Estimates of personal computers are from an annual International Telecommunication Union (ITU) questionnaire sent to member states, supplemented by other sources. Many governments lack the capacity to survey all places where personal computers are used (homes, schools, businesses, government offices, libraries, Internet cafes) so most estimates are derived from the number of personal computers sold each year. Annual shipment data can also be multiplied by an estimated average useful lifespan before replacement to approximate the number of personal computers. There is no precise method for determining replacement rates, but in general personal computers are replaced every three to five years.

Data on Internet users and related indicators (broadband and bandwidth) are based on nationally reported data to the ITU. Some countries derive these data from surveys, but since survey questions and definitions differ, the estimates may not be strictly comparable. Countries without surveys generally derive their estimates by multiplying subscriber counts reported by Internet service providers by multiplier. This method may undercount actual users, particularly in developing countries, where many commercial subscribers rent out computers connected to the Internet or prepaid cards are used to access the Internet.

Broadband refers to technologies that provide Internet speeds of at least 256 kilobits a second of upstream and downstream capacity and includes digital subscriber lines, cable modems, satellite broadband Internet, fiber-to-home Internet access, ethernet local access networks, and wireless area networks. Bandwidth refers to the range of frequencies available for signals. The higher the bandwidth, the more information that can be transmitted at one time. Reporting countries may have different definitions of broadband, so data are not strictly comparable.

The number of secure Internet servers, from the Netcraft Secure Server Survey, indicates how many companies conduct encrypted transactions over the Internet. The survey examines the use of encrypted transactions through extensive automated exploration, tallying the number of Web sites using a secure socket layer (SSL). The country of origin of more than a third of the 1.5 million distinct valid third-party certificates is unknown. Some countries, such as the Republic of Korea, use application layers to establish the encryption channel, which is SSL equivalent; these data are reported in the table.

Information and communications technology trade
Information and communication technology goods exports and imports are defined by the Working Party on Indicators for the Information Society and are reported in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Guide to Measuring the Information Society. Information and communication technology service exports data are based on the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook classification.

Infrastructure helps determine the success of manufacturing and agricultural activities. Investments in water, sanitation, energy, housing, and transport also improve lives and help reduce poverty. And new information and communication technologies promote growth, improve delivery of health and other services, expand the reach of education, and support social and cultural advances. Data here are compiled from such sources as the International Road Federation, Containerisation International, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Energy Association, and the International Telecommunications Union.

Data sources
Data on roads are from the IRF’s World Road Statistics, supplemented by World Bank staff estimates. Data on railways are from a database maintained by the World Bank’s Transport, Water, and Information and Communication Technologies Department, Transport Division, based on data from the International Union of Railways. Data on port container traffic are from Containerisation International’s Containerisation International Yearbook. Data on air transport are from the ICAO’s Civil Aviation Statistics of the World and ICAO staff estimates.

Data on electricity consumption and losses are from the IEA’s Energy Statistics and Balances of Non-OECD Countries, the IEA’s Energy Statistics of OECD Countries, and the United Nations Statistics Division’s Energy Statistics Yearbook. Data on telecommunications are from the ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Report database and TeleGeography.

Data on newspapers are compiled by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Data on televisions, personal computers, Internet users, Internet broadband users and cost, and Internet bandwidth are from the ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Report database and TeleGeography. Data on secure Internet servers are from Netcraft and official government sources. Data on information and communication technology goods trade are from the United Nations Statistics Division’s Commodity Trade (Comtrade) database. Data on information and communication technology service exports are from the IMF’s Balance of Payments Statistics database.


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