Efforts to Track Internet Diffusion

One of the first to chronicle Internet diffusion was Larry Landweber, who simply noted whether or not a nation had an international IP link. He produced well known maps between 1991 and 1997, graphically showing the Net's growth (ftp://ftp.cs.wisc.edu/connectivity_table/). Olivier MJ Crepin-Leblond has maintained a similar list of connected nations (http://www.nsrc.org/oclb/) since December, 1992. Keeping track of only one variable allowed Landweber and Crepin-Leblond to maintain a global perspective at a reasonable cost. Network Wizards, http://www.nw.com/, also produces a concise representation of the Internet, automatically counting the number of hosts in each top-level domain every 6 months. Matrix Information and Directory Services (MIDS) begins with Network Wizards' host and domain counts, and analyzes them further, determining the geographic location of hosts. They present the information in a variety of graphic and tabular formats (http://www.mids.org/).

Others compile in-depth information on a limited geographic area. For example, Boardwatch Magazine, http://www.boardwatch.com/, concentrates on the United States, using interviews, questionnaires, and automated techniques to compile data on every ISP and each IP backbone network. The result is a 560-page directory which requires a professional staff. Mike Jensen, http://www3.sn.apc.org/africa/, surveys ISPs in Africa, gathering less information than Boardwatch, but covering the entire continent. The Costa Rican National Research Network (CRNET) automatically counts Latin American and Caribbean hosts and domains, http://ns.cr/latstat/. Reseaux IP Europeens (RIPE) automatically counts European hosts and domains, http://www.ripe.net/statistics/. Press and Rodgriguez conducted a questionnaire survey of Latin American and Caribbean research and academic networks. The MOSAIC Group (http://www.agsd.com/gdiff/) has done in-depth studies of the state of the Internet in several nations by sending teams to interview members of the academic and commercial networking community, telecommunication vendors and regulators, interested political figures, etc. and extensive electronic and print literature review. The Pan Asia Networking (PAN) Program of the International Development Research Centre (http://www.panasia.org.sg/) publishes a yearbook with information on 24 Asia-Pacific nations. The Pan Asia Networking Yearbook has a chapter on each nation with a political, geographic and demographic overview and a description of the regulatory environment, Internet connectivity, local content initiatives, PAN activities, and a Web site and contact list. These chapters less detailed then the MOSAIC studies, but more nations are covered.

Chris Demchack and her colleagues at the University of Arizona maintain a global perspective, but focus on one aspect of the Internet -- government Web sites. They have compiled data on the Web sites of national agencies in nearly every nation of the world and rate them on openness and transparency. (For details on the coding scheme and project, see http://w3.arizona.edu/~cyprg/). CAIDA, The Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis, (http://www.nlanr.net/Caida/) tracks backbone networks globally. They have created a backbone-link database (link starting and ending points, speed, and operator) and software for graphically viewing and updating it.

We have been discussing organizations that track the global diffuison of the Internet. Other organizations track related information on telecommunication infrastructure (e.g., the International Telecommunication Union, http://www.itu.ch/, and Telegeography, http://www.telegeography.com/), social and economic factors (e. g., the World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/, and the United Nations Development Programme, http://www.undp.org/), and network traffic and performance measurement (e. g. MIDS, CAIDA and Boardwatch).

A variety of techniques are used in these studies. Landweber relied on personal knowledge and reports from the field when a nation connected to the Internet. Network Wizards, MIDS, CRNET, and RIPE use automated techniques to identify hosts and domains. Boardwatch Magazine staff use questionnaires, interviews, and automated tools in their work. Jensen uses personal knowledge, surveys and interviews. Press and Rodriguez used a questionnaire distributed at a meeting and over the Internet. The MOSAIC group does expensive, in-depth research using travel and extensive analyst time. Chris Demchack works with a team, identifying and characterizing each government Web site. CAIDA relies on backbone providers to keep their database current.