The Feasibility of Producing Relevant Indicators about the Information Society Using Internet Traffic Flows as a Data Source
Lucilla Sioli, Stefano Abruzzini
Economic and Statistical Analysis Unit, European Commission - Information Society and Media Directorate, Bruxelles, Belgium

Internet traffic flows (in a broad sense, involving all types of information exchanged through the internet) could provide a source of data on socio-economic phenomena complementary to the data usually collected by interviewing internet users. The traffic generated by the different activities over the internet can be analysed and processed to obtain statistics on the use of the internet. A quick search over the net could illustrate how many websites present indicators and statistics about a great variety of usages of the internet. But the majority of those measures present important weaknesses: lack of transparency about the methodology adopted, lack of continuity over time, very limited relevance, etc.

Following a pioneer work launched by Statistics Netherlands and published in April 2008: “Go with the dataflow! – Analysing the Internet as a data source”[1], the European Commission started in January 2011 an action-research study to test the feasibility of new forms of internet-based data collection that could enrich the efforts to monitor the take-up of ICT by social actors as well as the main impacts of ICT based applications and services.

The paper will present the first preliminary results of the study identifying the policy relevant indicators and discussing them under at least four feasibility criteria:

– the technical feasibility in terms of physical devices and software applications;

– the methodological feasibility in terms of relevance and robustness of the indicators;

– the economic feasibility;

– the legal and socio-political feasibility, considering the willingness of the involved actors to contribute, the possible conflicts, the existing regulatory framework, and more generally the competition between different interests around statistical data, to be intended as a public good[2].

During the second semester of 2011, three pilot exercises will be organised to collect the more promising indicators, using user-centric, network-centric and site-centric approaches.



[2] See for example the research of Alain Desrosières.

Keywords: Internet; Indicators; Benchmarking; Information society

Biography: Lucilla Sioli is Head of the Unit for Economic and Statistical Analysis in the Directorate General for Information Society and Media of the European Commission, in Brussels.

Her unit is in charge of the development of appropriate indicators to monitor the implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe 2010-2020, and publish annual reports about the ICT sector, the use of ICT by citizens, enterprises and governements, and the more general social and economic impacts of the information society.