The Importance of National Data Infrastructure for Low and Middle-Income Countries

52 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2021

See all articles by Sharada Srinivasan

Sharada Srinivasan

The World Bank Group; University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Niccolo Comini

World Bank Group

Michael Minges


Date Written: March 2, 2021


Businesses and individuals are consuming and producing more content over data-rich applications. At the core of this technological shift is the capability to deliver and control the distribution of increasing amounts of data. Countries’ digital ecosystems can be enhanced by data infrastructure building blocks: optimized internet traffic routes through the deployment of effective Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), proximity to the end user through content delivery networks (CDNs), and vast computing capabilities made available by data centers and cloud services.

However, research on the distribution and effects of data infrastructure in Low- and Middle-income countries (LMICs) is sparse. This paper comparatively studies the effects of national data infrastructure – Internet Exchange Points and their diversity in terms of including peers and content providers, and Colocation Data Centers – in low- and middle-income countries.

By curating a first-of-its-kind dataset, the paper proposes a conceptual framework that posits the different building blocks of a country’s data infrastructure as stages of a ladder, focusing on the openness of data infrastructure and not just its mere availability within a country. Our work looks at the entirety of the data infrastructure value chain for transit and storage, developing a framework that looks at IXPs’ presence as well as participant diversity (not just number but types of networks), and the presence of large content provider peers, co-location data centers, and cloud providers in a country. Relevant descriptive statistics are provided on the availability and distribution of data infrastructure globally by analyzing data collected from several secondary sources and validated with individual country counterparts.

Second, low- and middle-income countries are clustered based on characteristics that affect a country’s data ecosystem, namely their income level, mobile broadband penetration, access to submarine cables and mobile market concentration. For a subsample of countries, public measurements taken by RIPE ATLAS probes are used to analyze the percentage of links that are transmitted outside the country and stay local, as well as the distribution of round-trip times for countries over time. Where data availability of probes and subsequent measurements are not available, the gap is filled through interviews with stakeholders and relying where possible on secondary sources.

The paper empirically shows how countries on higher steps of the data infrastructure ladder see improvements in latency and reduction in prices. The case studies also highlight the importance of governance and policy to a well-functioning data infrastructure, with the research specifically focused on a diversity of countries across regions and levels of data infrastructure development.

Keywords: data infrastructure, IXPs, data centers, cloud computing, lmics

Suggested Citation

Srinivasan, Sharada and Comini, Niccolo and Minges, Michael, The Importance of National Data Infrastructure for Low and Middle-Income Countries (March 2, 2021). TPRC49: The 49th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy, Available at SSRN: or

Sharada Srinivasan (Contact Author)

The World Bank Group ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Niccolo Comini

World Bank Group ( email )

10 Marina Boulevard
Marina Bay Financial Center, Tower 2, #34-02
Singapore, DC 018983

Michael Minges

Consultant ( email )

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