The ECIS region comprises a set of distinct and diverse nations varying in different social, economic and development parameters. This story attempts to explore where the countries in the region stand with respect to certain basic factors required for a sustainable and thriving open data environment and to serve as a reflection of the region from the lens of open data.
Internet Penetration is a key metric and has vital importance in the present digital age. Internet penetration levels vary hugely in the ECIS region with most countries faring above the world average (44). However, except for Kazakhstan rest of the central-Asian countries, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have a lower Internet penetration compared to the world average. While Russia and rest of the erstwhile soviet states along with Western-Balkans exhibit high levels of internet penetration.
Mobile phones have revolutionized the telecommunication industry over the last few decades. Mobile penetration is quite high in the erstwhile Soviet states compared to other nations in the region. Kazakhstan, Montenegro and Russia have the highest mobile penetration in the region. While Uzbekistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Turkey have a lower mobile penetration in the region when compared to the world average of 98. Interestingly, Turkmenistan, which has the least Internet penetration in the region, has a significantly high mobile penetration. Similar is the case with Kyrgyzstan as well. While the other two central-Asian nations (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) lag behind on this metric as well.
The central Asian states barely have any representation on the social media platform with the penetration being as low as around 1% in Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Western-Balkans along with Turkey and Cyprus have a fair representation in proportion to their respective Internet penetration levels. In countries like Russia and erstwhile Soviet states with high Internet penetration, the population could be into social media through other local platforms due to regional, political and linguistic factors and thus have less representation on Facebook. This hypothesis is corroborated by the fact that other social media websites such as vk.com and ok.ru figure out among the top-20 most visited websites in these nations based on Alexa data.
Internet Usage: What do users do on the Internet?
The plot based on the classification of Top-25 websites visited by users in each of the states in ECIS looks as above. The majority of the most accessed websites across all the nations belong to News media; Social Media; Entertainment Media and E-commerce categories. However, their respective distribution varies hugely among the nations. News websites are most visited in countries like Albania, Montenegro, Turkey and Croatia. While users from nations like Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan tend to visit News websites less. Social media website usage remains almost similar across all the nations with the exception of few states like Tajikistan and Macedonia etc. However, when Social Media is looked in combination with News Media, even in states with less News Media website usage Social Media websites still maintain similar usage share as in other states. This exhibits the potential of Social Media as an entry point to serve as a medium for the spread of information in states with limited usage of news websites. Major social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter don’t figure out among the top websites for many countries in the region and are complemented by other regional social media platforms such as vk.com and ok.ru. E-commerce websites usage is quite similar across all the states in the region except for Turkmenistan and Macedonia. This could be seen as a potential entry point and the scope to bring in various e-government and e-services to the public, which are not much different from the e-commerce websites from the user perspective.
The Youth (15-24yr) and Adult (>15yr) literacy rates are exceptionally high (~99%) for many states in the region. More than two-thirds of the population in all these nations is within the working-age group (15-64yr). This huge proportion of human resource in combination with such high literacy rates offers a huge potential, which if brought onto the digital platform by further enhancing the internet and mobile penetration and imparting necessary technical skills could take tremendous advantage of various e-governance and e-services, leading to the success of such initiatives as well as benefitting the population at large.