Watch the video
The Web Index: Measuring the Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress in countries across the world from Web Foundation on Vimeo.
Description: The Web has changed our lives. But to harness its full benefit, we need to understand how countries and people use it, and its impact on on development and human rights. The Web Index, by the World Wide Web Foundation, tracks the Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress across 86 countries. It ranks these nations across four pillars: Universal Access, Freedom and Openness, Empowerment and Relevant Content.
About the Web Index
The Web Index is designed and produced by the World Wide Web Foundation. It is the world’s first measure of the World Wide Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress in countries across the world.
By compiling data across many different dimensions of Web health and making it freely available, the Web Index helps to deepen and broaden our understanding of how countries can maximise the impact of the Web. Taking the format of a annual country ranking, it will eventually allow for comparisons of trends over time and the benchmarking of performance across countries, continuously improving our understanding of the Web’s value for humanity.
First released in 2012, it provides an objective and robust evidence base to inform public dialogue on the steps needed for societies to leverage greater value from the Web. The Index combines existing secondary data with new primary data derived from an evidence-based expert researcher assessment survey. It covers 86 countries and scores are given in the areas of access; freedom and openness; relevant content; and empowerment. (Note: Web Index 2012 and 2013 content is available at: legacy.thewebindex.org)
Why Create an Index?
Much of the Web research that exists measures quantifiable metrics, such as the number of Web users, speed of access to the Web, the number of broadband subscribers, or covers particular single-dimensions such as economic impact or censorship. Sir Tim Berners-Lee recognised that in order to measure progress to developing a more open and meaningful Web better, and for the Web to attain its full potential as a transformative tool that can improve living standards, reduce conflict and improve governance and well-being, it is important to understand how the Web impacts social, developmental, economic and political dimensions as well.
The results can be utilized by decision makers across the public and private sectors, as well as academia, NGOs, the technology industry, and ordinary members of the public.
What Issues does the Web Index Cover?
The Web Index assesses the Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress around the world.
The Index measures and ranks:
- Universal Access: This sub-Index measures whether countries have invested in affordable access to high quality internet infrastructure, as well as investing in the education and skills citizens need to use the Web well.
- Freedom and Openness: This sub-Index assesses the extent to which citizens enjoy rights to information, opinion, expression, safety and privacy online.
- Relevant Content: This sub-Index maps both Web use by citizens and the content available in each country, with an emphasis on the extent to which different stakeholders can access information that is relevant to them, in the language that they are most comfortable using and via platforms and channels that are widely available.
- Empowerment: This sub-Index aims to assess the difference that the Web is making to people, and the extent to which use of the Web by stakeholders is fostering positive change in four key areas: society, economy, politics and environment.
The Web Index is a composite measure that summarises the impact and value derived from the Web in various countries in a single, average number.
There are serious challenges when attempting to measure and quantify some of the dimensions the Index covers (e.g. the social and political), and suitable proxies are used instead.
In addition, as the Web Index covers a large number of countries, some of which have serious data deficiencies or were not covered by the data providers, we needed to impute the missing data. We have worked with eminent experts in the relevant fields to overcome these challenges and produce a robust and rigorous Index.
Two types of data were used in the construction of the Index: existing data from other data providers (“secondary data”), and new data gathered via a multi-country questionnaire (“primary data”) that was specifically designed by the World Wide Web Foundation and its advisers. This primary data will begin to fill in some of the gaps in measurement of the utility and impact of the Web in various countries. Indeed, the data gaps in this field are significant, and we aim to continue to address this in future editions of the Index, both in terms of the questions/indicators gathered and the number of countries covered by the Index.
There has been no change from the 2013 Index in the statistical approach used for the computation of the latest Web Index. There are several steps in the process of constructing a composite Index. Some of those involve deciding which statistical method to use in the normalisation and aggregation processes. In arriving at that decision, we took into account several factors, including the purpose of the Index, the number of dimensions we were aggregating, and the ease of disseminating and communicating it in a clear, replicable and transparent way.
The following 10 steps summarise the computation process of the Index:
- Take the data for each indicator from the data source for the 86 countries covered by the Index for the 2007-2013 time period (or until mid-2014 in the case of the Web Index expert assessment survey).
- Impute missing data for every secondary indicator for the sample of 86 countries over the period 2007-2013. Some indicators were not imputed as it was not logical to do so (this is noted in the datasets where applicable). None of the primary data indicators were imputed. Hence the 2014 Index is very different from the 2007-2013 Indexes that were computed using secondary data only. Broadly, the imputation of missing data was done using two methods, in addition to extrapolation: country-mean substitution if the missing number is in the middle year (e.g. have 2008 and 2010 but not 2009), or taking arithmetic growth rates on a year-by-year basis. For the indicators that did not cover a particular country in any of the years, no imputation was done for that country/indicator.
- Normalise the full (imputed) dataset using z-scores, making sure that for all indicators, a high value is “good” and a low value is “bad”.
- Cluster some of the variables (as per the scheme in the tree diagram), taking the average of the clustered indicators post-normalisation. For the clustered indicators, this clustered value is the one to be used in the computation of the Index components.
- Compute the eight component scores using arithmetic means, using the clustered values where relevant.
- Compute the min-max values for each z-score value of the components, as this is what will be shown in the visualisation tool and other publications containing the component values (generally, it is easier to understand a min-max number in the range of 0 – 100 rather than a standard deviation-based number). The formula for this is : [(x – min)/(max – min)]*100.
- Compute sub-index scores by calculating the weighted averages the z-scores of the relevant components for each sub-Index.
- Compute the min-max values for each z-score value of the sub-Indexes, as this is what will be shown in the visualization tool and other publications containing the sub-index values.
- Compute overall composite scores by calculating the weighted average of the sub-indexes.
- Compute the min-max values (on a scale of 0-100) for each z-score value of the overall composite scores, as this is what will be shown in the visualisation tool and other publications containing the composite scores.
Indicator Inclusion Criteria
We searched a large number of international databases to find indicators that measure or proxy the dimensions under study.
Before an indicator is included in the Index, it needs to fulfill five basic criteria:
- Data providers have to be credible and reliable organisations, that are likely to continue to produce data for the same indicators (e.g. theirs is not a once-off dataset being published).
- Data releases should be regular, with new data released at least every three years.
- There should be at least two data years for each indicator for the majority of countries, so that basic statistical inference could be made.
- The latest data year should be no older than three years prior to publication year. For example, if the first Index is published in 2012, data must be available, at a minimum, for 2009 and before.
- The data source should cover at least two-thirds of the sample of countries, so that possible bias – introduced by having a large number of indicators from one source that systematically does not cover one-third or more of the countries – is reduced.
The Web Index benefited from the help and advice of many people, and involved a rigorous process of collecting and analysing data across a large number of indicators and countries, as well as consulting leading experts in various fields.
The Web Index research was managed by Khaled Fourati and directed by Dr. Hania Farhan from the World Wide Web Foundation.
The lead report author is Anne Jellema, with Dr Hania Farhan, Khaled Fourati, Dr Siaka Lougue, Dillon Mann and Gabe Trodd all assisting in the writing and analysis.
The Web Index Science Council continues to provide valuable advice in the construction and analysis of the Web Index. This year, the following experts were invited to participate in the Science Council meetings: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Ackland, Paola Annoni, Kilnam Chon, Anriette Esterhuysen, Jonathan Donner, Robert Guerra, Torbjorn Fredriksson, Mishi Choudhary, Marcelo Daher, Rebecca Mackinnon, Alice Munyua, Ronaldo Lemos, Juliana Nolasco, Claire Sibthorpe and Shireen Santosham. We are grateful for their generous contribution of their time and expertise.
The Web Index benefited from the expertise of:
Analyst team at the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences:
- Siaka Lougue
- Tchilabalo Abozou Kpanzou
- Aristide Romaric Bado
- Innocent Karangwa
Survey team coordinators:
- Carlos Iglesias
- Aman Grewal
- Raed M. Sharif
- Ginette Law
- Laura M. James Bromwich
The team at WESO:
- José Emilio Labra Gayo
- Guillermo Infante Hernández
- Juan Castro Fernández
- Daniel Fernández Álvarez
- Miguel Otero Gafarelo
- Borja Garrido Bear
The team at Development Seed:
- Ian Schuler
- Marc Farra
- Derek Lieu
We would also like to thank:
- Joy Liddicoat, Jan Vobořil, Sam Smith, Katarzyna Szymielewicz, Rejo Zenger
- The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre
- The Unit of Econometrics and Applied Statistics-Ispra – IT, who supported us on methodological and statistical analysis.
- Ingrid Brudvig, José M. Alonso, Tim Davies, Sonia Jorge, Lauran Potter, Chan Sun, and the rest of the World Wide Web Foundation team.
- The Index team is grateful to the large number of experts and professionals who assisted us with the Expert Assessment survey.
- Finally, particular thanks must go to UK Aid for funding the continued development and production of the Web Index and to the Swedish International Development Cooperation and Naver for significant funding support.
Web Index data providers and supporters:
The World Wide Web Foundation is grateful to the following data providers for allowing us to use and re-publish their data. Their contribution to this effort is greatly valued:
Please click here for more information on the data used from each of the above data providers.
Expert Assessment Survey
The process for collecting new primary data was based on an expert researcher assessment survey. The questionnaire was carefully refined in consultation with various experts in different fields, and a group of multidisciplinary researchers and professionals were selected in each of the 86 countries to score the questionnaires. The scorers were required to conduct desk research and interviews with key informants to score precisely defined questions, and to substantiate those scores with robust narrative comments and references (such as an academic article, media reports, laws, etc.), to reduce the degree of subjectivity.
The work of scorers was supported by peer reviewers for each country (the scorer and the peer reviewer did their work independently of each other), in order to validate or otherwise question and improve the scorers results. A group of technical reviewers and regional reviewers also examined the scores for each indicator. A final level of checking and validation was conducted by the project team.
The World Wide Web Foundation would like to thank the following participants, who were instrumental in fulfilling and completing the assessment surveys for the Web Index. (Note: Some participants asked to remain anonymous.)
Mariana Mas (Argentina), Michael Hoerz (Austria), Samaya Borom (Australia), Rayna Stamboliyska (Bahrain), Caroline Gans Combe (Belgium), Gisele Craviero (Brazil), Pierre Chrzanowski (Burkino Faso and Cameroon), Vincent Manzerolle (Canada), Alberto Cerda (Chile), Q.Z. (China), Carlos Andres Barahona (Columbia), Israel Aragon (Costa Rica), Michal Kuban (Czech Republic), Thorhildur Jetzek (Denmark and Iceland), Nadesha Montalvo (Ecuador), Soha Farouk (Egypt), Askur Alas (Estonia), Leena Kylmanen (Finland), Caroline Gans Combe (France), Michael Hoerz (Germany), Zsuzsanna Vári Kovács (Hungary), John Bosco Mubiru (Ireland), Ehud Assaf (Israel), Ernesto Belisario (Italy), Richard John Smart (Japan), Baria Ahmar (Jordan), Judith Ogutu (Kenya), Geoffrey Cain (Korea), Patrick Semphere (Malawi), Pierre Chrzanowski (Mali), Dessalegn Mequanint Yehuala (Mauritius), Emilene Martinez Morales (Mexico), Abderahman Zohry (Morocco), Dessalegn Mequanint Yehuala (Mozambique), Htaike Htaike Aung (Myanmar), Kersti Ruth Wissenbach (Netherlands), Kostas Antypas (Norway), Pablo Pérez Álvarez (Peru), Analisa V. Puod (Philippines), Colin Hales (Poland) Frederico Cavazzini (Portugal), Rayna Stamboliyska (Qatar), Dessalegn Mequanint Yehuala (Rwanda), Rayna Stamboliyska (Saudi Arabia), Zsuzsanna Vari-Kovacs (Singapore), Soenke Ziesche (South Africa), Jose María Álvarez Rodriguez (Spain), Andreas Kuehn (Switzerland), Leonida Mutuku (Tanzania), Suluck Lamubol (Thailand), Sofiane Bouhdiba (Tunisia), Igbal Safarov (Turkey), Wes Schwalje (UAE), Fiona Namutebi (Uganda), Nikhil Agarwal (UK), Volodymyr Shemayev (Ukraine), Mariana Mas (Uruguay), Maximilian Heimstädt (US), Iria, Puyosa (Venezuela), Walid Al-Saqaf (Yemen), Glory Mushinge (Zambia), Denboy Kudejira (Zimbabwe).
REVIEWERS (COUNTRY, REGIONAL AND FUNCTIONAL):
Julieta Valente, (Argentina), Keisha Taylor (Australia), Frederike Kaltheuner (Austria), Leonida Mutuku (Botswana), Daphnee Iglesias (Brazil), Frank Hangler (Canada), Hieke van der Vaart (Chile), Gerard Walsh (China), Johan de Aguas (Colombia), Caroline Burle (Costa Rica), Kim Bach (Denmark), Israel Aragon (Ecuador), Tarmo Vahter (Estonia), Daniel Schildt, (Finland), Petrovic Liliane (France), Frederike Kaltheuner (Germany), Andras Loke (Hungary), Askur Alas (Iceland), Nikhil Agarwal (Ireland), Mor Rubinstein (Israel), Angela Corrias (Italy), Maurice MacNaughton (Jamaica), Gerard Walsh( Japan), Soha Farouk (Jordan), Bonfas Owinga (Kenya), Haklae Kim (Korea), Dessalegn Mequanint (Malawi), Jankee Kheswar (Mauritius), Claudia Munaiz ( Mexico), Rayna Stamboliyska (Morocco), Aquinaldo Célio Tomás (Mozambique), Deepak Adhikari (Nepal), Gerard Walsh (Netherlands), Keisha Taylor (New Zealand), Mariana Mas (Peru), Daphnee Iglesias (Portugal), Nathanael Hategekimana (Rwanda), Atif Abderahman (Saudi Arabia), Gerard Walsh (Singapore), Juan José Méndez (Spain), Maximilian Heimstädt (Switzerland), Jamal Msami (Tanzania), Gerard Walsh (Thailand), Mustapha Chouikha (Tunisia), Ömer Faruk Gençkaya (Turkey), Mark Townsend (UAE), John Bosco (Uganda), Gerard Walsh (UK), Amanda Meng (Uruguay), Gerard Walsh (US), Raisa Urribarri (Venezuela), Marianne Brown (Vietnam), Boniface Dulani (Zambia).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Web Index?
Designed and produced by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Web Index is the world’s first measure of the World Wide Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress in countries across the world.
Scores are given in the areas of universal access; freedom and openness; relevant content; and empowerment.
First released in 2012, the 2014-15 Index has been expanded and refined to include a total of 86 countries and features an enhanced data set, particularly in the areas of gender, Open Data, privacy rights and censorship. The Index combines existing secondary data with new primary data derived from an evidence-based expert assessment survey.
The Web Index provides an objective and robust evidence base to inform public dialogue on the steps needed for societies to leverage greater value from the Web. It is published annually and resources permitting, it will continue to be expanded to cover more countries in the coming years. It will eventually allow for comparisons of trends over time and the benchmarking of performance across countries, continuously improving our understanding of the Web’s value for humanity.
By compiling data across many different dimensions of Web health and making it freely available, the Web Index will help deepen and broaden our understanding of how countries can maximise the impact of this powerful tool.
What is the World Wide Web Foundation?
Established by the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web Foundation seeks to establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right, creating a world where everyone, everywhere can use the Web to communicate, collaborate and innovate freely.
What issues does the Web Index cover?
The Web Index assesses the use, utility and impact of the Web around the world. The Index combines existing secondary data with new primary data derived from an evidence-based expert assessment survey.
Scores are given in the areas of:
Freedom and openness;
How were countries chosen for inclusion in the Web Index?
The 2014-15 Web Index ranks 86 developed and developing countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.
The choice of countries currently covered in the Web Index has been determined by the level of available secondary data for the country (from selected sources such as the World Bank, Freedom House, the International Telecommunication Union and the World Economic Forum) and the availability of resources and experts to complete country questionnaires.
The selection of countries also allows for a sufficient spread across the five continents.
What is the difference between the 2013 Web Index and the latest Web Index?
The 2014-15 Index has been expanded and refined to include five new countries and features an enhanced data set, particularly in the areas of gender, Open Data, privacy rights and censorship. The latest Web Index also included indicators that assess the current state of Net Neutrality, for the first time.
The latest Web Index has been restructured to provide clearer actionable policy recommendations within the human rights framework proposed for the internet by Frank LaRue, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Information, Expression and Association, and therefore includes new indicators that aim to capture the four dimensions measured more accurately. Those changes mean that strict comparisons between the different editions of the Index are not possible, without a re-design of the indicators to mirror previous structures. The 2014-15 Web Index incorporates the following changes from the 2013 Index:
- The number of countries surveyed increased from 81 to 86.
- The five new countries included in this year’s index are: Haiti, Mozambique, Myanmar, Sierra Leone and Ukraine.
- The secondary and primary indicators were simplified and consolidated, with a resultant reduction in the total number of indicators to 54, down from 84 in the 2013 Index.
- The “Relevant Content” sub-index consisted of two components in 2013: 1) “content creation” and 2) “web use”. These were combined in the 2014 index to form one component measuring “relevant content and use”, given the closeness and overlap of several aspects in the two dimensions.
- Two new indicators were added to measure net neutrality and intermediary liability, given importance and the relevance of these issues from an Internet policy perspective.
What is the point of the Web Index? Who could benefit from it?
The Web Index provides a unique, authoritative view of the utility and impact of the Web around the world. The Index is a powerful analytical tool to inform the decision-making process of various stakeholders, allowing for better-informed decisions and more targeted interventions and strategies. The Index will allow policy interventions to be formulated and targeted more directly to improve specific indicators.
The Index can be used by:
- Governments: The Web Index enables national policymakers to assess and track their performance in comparison with other countries, thereby targeting the specific indicators that allow other countries to rank higher.
- Multilateral organisations / donors: The Web Index empowers multilateral organisations to identify more efficiently investment areas and program interventions to deliver benefits more effectively.
- Corporations: The Web Index provides an important analytical tool for corporations and private businesses looking to harness the Web’s potential. Companies can analyse indicators in the Index relevant to their field, and target countries where they see demand and the necessary infrastructure for delivery.
- NGOs / advocacy groups: NGOs can use the Index and its rankings in their discussions with policymakers to make a stronger case for government support for a particular project in that field.
Ultimately, anyone with an interest in the Web can use the Web Index to develop a better understanding of its impact around the world.
How was the Index constructed? Where are the data from?
The Web Index is a composite index incorporating political, economic, social and developmental indicators, as well as indicators of Web connectivity and infrastructure. It relies on both primary data, based on expert surveys, and secondary data pulled from existing sources. A full list of secondary data providers can be found below.
The data and methodology used to produce the Index have been published openly to ensure full transparency and can be used by others to undertake their own research. The Web Foundation hopes that the Index will help stimulate the debate and discussion around the use of the Web and its utility to people.
The full methodology used to compute the Index is available here.
How were the country experts selected? Who are they?
The World Wide Web Foundation and its advisors carefully identified experts and researchers in all Index countries to score the country questionnaires. These lead researchers were drawn from various fields including journalism, academia and NGOs. All experts’ scores were peer-reviewed by a country reviewer as well as a regional reviewer and a technical reviewer on certain key subject areas (for eg. gender, affordability, open data). The scores were inspected again to ensure alignment between the evidence cited and the score given.
We publish the names of our researchers where we can. However, some researchers request that their identity is kept confidential to safeguard against any negative reactions to their involvement.
There are many reports and indices on the Web and its use. What makes the Web Index different?
Much of the Web research that exists today measures easily quantifiable phenomena (such as the number of Web users, speed of access to the Web, the number of broadband subscribers) or covers single dimensions such as economic impact or censorship. However, the Web has potential to bring change in many different dimensions of political, social and economic life; and the enabling environment required for the Web to flourish is equally multi-dimensional, bridging policies, physical infrastructure, and human capital. The Web Index is the first attempt to measure the Web’s growth and utility across all of these dimensions.
What is the difference between the Web and the Internet?
The terms World Wide Web and Internet are often – incorrectly – used interchangeably. In fact, the Internet is a series of networked machines, or a network of networks, upon which numerous functions such as email, instant messaging, and file transfer protocol (FTP) can take place. The World Wide Web is a means of accessing information over the medium of the Internet using HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol). The Web is a vast network of linked pages of data, including text, sound, graphics, and video. In other words, the Web is humanity connected by technology.
How should users navigate the Web Index?
Users can begin their analysis of the Web Index here.
There are many ways to use the data from the Web Index. Users can start by looking at the overall scores and rankings for all the countries covered by the Index, then move on to comparing the score and ranking of an individual country to the scores of their regional or global peers, or of the top-performing countries in the Index. To understand why the selected country has been ranked as it has, users can check the sub-indexes, components and specific indicators that drive the scores. Visualisation tools on the Web Index website also allow for comparisons of one or two indicators across selected groups of countries.
Does the Index measure both the positive and negative impact of the Web?
The Index consists of many more indicators that measure the positive side of the Web than the negative side. This is largely because of the dearth of indicators that assess the negative aspects of the Web for a large enough sample of countries. We do consider a number of topics with the potential for negative impact, including assessing how countries handle online privacy, surveillance and gender-based violence.
How will you disseminate the Index results and its policy implications?
The World Wide Web Foundation will engage in a series of capacity building round-tables in a number of countries, resources permitting. Local stakeholders such as government officials, civil society/NGOs, academia and private sector representatives will be invited to participate in discussions on how the Web Index is built (and the ways to nationalise or regionalise it) as well as the implications and uses of the Index.
The Web Index is also frequently presented at conferences around the world, and used by the world’s media.
Why were the chosen weights used, rather than any other weighting scheme?
Given feedback from the 2012 pilot Index (when we applied differentiated weights across the sub-Indexes), and the change to the structure and design of the 2013 and 2014 Web Indexes, we chose to apply equal weights across both the 2013 and 2014-15 Indexes. This decision reflects an approach that considers access to the web and online rights to be essential to the web’s potential to empower individuals.
The majority of funding for the 2014-15 Web Index was provided by UK Aid from the UK government. We are grateful for their support.
In addition, NAVER Corporation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency also contributed to this important initiative.
We continue to seek additional funding to ensure the sustainability of the Web Index and its publication.
Please help us to continue our efforts to expand the impact of the World Wide Web as a catalyst of social, political and economic progress.