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[liberationtech] Liberationtech Seminar: Measuring Internet Penetration @ Scale: Problems and solutions when measuring internet connectivity in developing countries

Yosem Companys companys at
Thu Nov 12 09:57:22 PST 2015

Measuring Internet Penetration @ Scale: Problems and solutions when
measuring internet connectivity in developing countries

Lauren Bachan , Facebook

Today, November 12, 2015 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

Wallenberg Hall
450 Serra Mall, Building 160
Stanford, CA 94305-2055

FSI Contact: Alice Carter <albee at>


The Internet has already changed many aspects of peoples’ lives in
developed economies and has provided far-reaching economic and social
benefits. Extending these opportunities is critical to accelerating
economic and social growth in developing economies as well. Many
international organizations have set ambitious plans to promote
Internet access globally; they pore over reports and expend
considerable money, time and talent exploring new ways to connect the
unconnected (e.g., blimps, drones, satellites). But raw enthusiasm and
aggregate statistics fail to capture the reality of the digital divide
in the developing world. Facebook’s commitment to connecting the
developing world includes a desire to understand the complexity of the
issue as it relates to the cultural, structural and technological
inequalities between and within countries. This approach requires
bringing together insights from large number of publicly available
data sources that employ different methodologies to understanding the
multi-faceted nature of the digital divide, even when the assembled
sources of data reach different conclusions.

In this talk, researchers from Facebook will discuss the difficulties
and limitations often faced by aggregating numerous country-specific
data sources together to measure the extent, cause and consequences of
differences in Internet adoption between countries and populations.
They will explain how Facebook evaluates the quality of existing
publicly available data sources (e.g., national statistics, academic
studies and industry reports), aggregates multiple sources to obtain
relevant estimates and supplement data “holes” with original data
collection efforts. The multi-faceted approach allows Facebook to
conduct scalable and comprehensive comparative analyses at multiple
levels, which in turn leads to more culturally-sensitive and
context-specific approaches for bridging the digital divide.

Speaker Bio

Lauren Bachan is a quantitative researcher on the Growth Population
and Survey Science team at Facebook. Her current research focuses on
understanding the social and cultural barriers to Internet use in
developing countries. More broadly, she’s interested in how new
technologies change social life and are adapted to fit long-standing
cultural norms. Lauren received her PhD in Sociology and Demography
from Penn State University, where she studied extended family
childcare systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Lauren also holds a BA in
International Relations from Mount Holyoke College and has previously
worked in the fields of international development and market research.

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