Presenting the Digital Knowledge Economy Index at the Upcoming Development Studies Association Conference


In this year’s Development Studies Association Conference, we will present a paper titled ‘Measuring the Hidden Contours of the Global Knowledge Economy with a Digital Index’. In this paper we propose a Digital Knowledge Economy Index, which combines traditional data sources with bespoke data on capacities and skills (measured via content-creation and participation on digital platforms) to provide a revealing view of where developing countries fit into the world’s digital knowledge economy.

The paper abstract is as follows:

Taking advantage of the ‘information revolution’ is a priority in various national development strategies. Eager to tap into economic and social opportunities potentially afforded by increased access to digital information, many governments of developing countries have envisioned policies that guide their transformation into so-called ‘knowledge economies’. However, the concept itself is rarely clearly defined, operationalized, or effectively measured. The few indices that have measured the state of knowledge economies around the world employ significantly different sets of variables, further adding to the vagueness of the concept. These indices reflect their designer’s conceptualization of the knowledge economy and rely on the accuracy and cross-sectional as well as longitudinal representativeness of their data sources, which may be called into question in low-income contexts. We thus propose the construction of a Digital Knowledge Economy Index, which will account for previously unmeasured capacities and skills that are quantifiable via measuring content-creation and participation directly through digital platforms, such as the code-sharing platform GitHub, encyclopaedia Wikipedia and domain registrations. With this approach, the ‘traditional’ data sources – national statistics and expert surveys – can be complemented by data that is collected online using bespoke methods and that reflects the underlying digital content creation, capacities and skills of the population. We believe that an index that combines traditional and novel data sources may provide a more revealing view of the status of the world’s digital knowledge economy and highlight where each data source on its own may be biased in describing (in)equalities in the age of data.

Our presentation fill form part of the ‘The Politics of Measurement: how what we measure influences what we do and ignore’ panel. The panel will debate that what is used to measure critical aspects of development – such as wellbeing, effectiveness and inequality, hides or highlights, reveals or makes invisible critical groups of people, issues and values that underpin society.