Glossary of Terms



486 PC - a term used to describe a class of personal computers based on Intel's 486 microprocessor. While the 486 can support a Web browser and many older applications, it is usually limited in its ability to run current software. 486 PCs and below generally represent an earlier generation of computing.


bandwidth - the amount of data that can pass through a given communications channel in a standard amount of time (usually per second). An indication of the capacity of the network's "pipes."

bit - the smallest unit of computer memory storage capacity.

broadband - a term used to describe a network that can transmit a wide range of signals, including audio and video. Broadband networks are especially useful in the Networked World, as they can carry many signals at once, resulting in faster data transmission.

bulletin boards - online information resources where individuals may post information that is of interest to others. Virtual communities often form around bulletin board systems (BBS). Although bulletin boards existed on systems that preceded the World Wide Web, most are now Web-based.

byte - a sequence of bits that a computer processes in individual units (e.g. eight bits could be processed as one byte).


cable networks - communications systems using coaxial cable for information delivery. Cable networks began as a medium for television programming delivery, though many cable companies are beginning to offer high-speed data services (e.g. Internet) and telephony over their networks.

carrier - a term commonly used to identify a telephone company. A carrier signal is a continuous signal on an analog copper telephone line.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read Only Memory) - an optical data storage medium with a capacity of about 640 megabytes of data. CD-ROMs look like audio compact discs and are used primarily for the storage and distribution of multimedia, software and databases. They are often the most effective means of data transfer in places where limited bandwidth makes large downloads impossible.

client - a computer program or terminal that requests information or services from another computer (a server) on the network

coaxial cable - a type of cable commonly used in cable networks consisting of two conducting components: a solid core separated from an outer sheath by an insulating layer.

computer labs - computing centers found in schools and universities where students and staff may share workstations, printers, file servers and Internet access.

computer literacy - the degree to which individuals are familiar with computer operating systems and applications.

computer programmers and technicians - those people, whether professional or amateur, who create the software that allows computers to perform different functions and who provide support and maintenance for computer networks.

connectivity - the ability to access the Internet and utilize online resources.

content - information that is available online. The "message" rather than the "medium."


dedicated line - a permanent connection between two points on the telecommunications network.

dial-up Internet access - a common means of accessing the Internet for households and small business, which involves dialing into an ISP's lines through the public switched telephone network by use of a modem. The connection is temporary, as opposed to dedicated line services like DSL.

digitalization - in a human context, digitalization refers to the integration of digital technologies (i.e. ICTs) into the everyday lives of people in a community.

domain name - a string of words used to identify computer addresses on the Internet. Commonly points to the top level of a World Wide Web site on a host machine.

download - to transfer data or files from a server on the Internet to a user's computer.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) - A high-bandwidth Internet access service offered by some ISPs and telecom operators. DSL incorporates existing copper telephone lines with a specialized modem at the customer's end and a multiplexer at the central office. Allows for simultaneous voice and always-on data transmission. DSL services are being rolled out first in metropolitan areas with subscriber bases that can best support the required network upgrades.


e-mail (electronic mail) - a computer-based form of sending and receiving messages via the Internet. Users may have their own e-mail account or use a shared account, which is quite common in the developing world.

e-commerce (electronic commerce) - business transactions which incorporate the use of ICTs to enhance interactions and exchanges, and which augment or replace physical contact or exchanges.

electrical grid - the network of power lines used to deliver electricity to inhabited areas.

electronic contract enforceability - the degree to which electronic contracts, or agreements processed over the Internet or computer networks, are upheld in a legal setting and considered the equivalent of paper-based contracts with handwritten signatures.


fiber optics - cables made from bundles of glass or plastic fibers for high-bandwidth data transfer using beams of light carrying electromagnetic signals.

frame relay - a telecommunications technology for the internetworking of local area net works (LANs). Frame relay may be carried over a variety of lines, including fiber optics and ISDN.


hard drive - a computer's internal disk drive using a non-removable storage format. Used for the storage of data, documents and the computer's programs and operating system.

hardware - the physical parts of a computer system, including the monitor, central processing unit, memory, storage disks, printers and scanners, and network equipment, such as routers and servers.


Information Age - the current stage in societal development which began to emerge at the end of the twentieth century. This period is marked by the increased production, transmission, consumption of and reliance on information. Many consider the new role of information to be changing our social and economic behavior as dramatically as did the Industrial Revolution.

information and communication technologies (ICTs) - the building blocks of the Networked World. ICTs include telecommunications technologies, such as telephony, cable, satellite and radio, as well as digital technologies, such as computers, information networks and software.

interactive - providing output based on input from the user. This output feeds back into the user's decision process for subsequent interaction. Interactive websites, for instance, allow for more dynamic information browsing and applications such as shopping, banking, etc.

interconnection fees - fees that the operator of one network (e.g. a telephone system) must pay another network operator to in order to connect to that network. The connection might be to terminate a call initiated on the former network (usually charged on a per call basis), or to access the international Internet backbone (usually a lump-sum charge).

Internet - An open network layer that allows for the interconnection of various data networks through the use of the TCP/IP protocol. When most individuals think of the Internet, they are thinking of applications that use the Internet, such as e-mail and the World Wide Web.

Internet cafes - public establishments offering access to Internet-enabled terminals in addition to other services, such as food and drink. Also known as cybercafes and online cafes.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) - a high-speed communications network which combines voice, data and video into single cables.

ISP (Internet Service Provider) - A company which offers Internet access (and possibly other services such as e-mail and webhosting) to individuals or companies through either temporary or dedicated connections.


Kbps (Kilobits per second) - a unit for measuring the speed of transmission in a digital connection; one thousand bits of data per second.


LAN (Local Area Network) - a group of computer workstations connected to one or more common servers for the sharing of files, printing services and Internet access. Usually found in offices and schools.

leased line - a permanent network connection between two points (e.g. a business and an ISP) that is leased from a telephone operator.

listserv - an electronic mail-based discussion forum for subscribing members. Individuals send e-mail to the listervís address, and all members on the distribution list receive the message. An effective, low bandwidth, user-driven medium for content focused on a particular area of interest.


mainline - a telephone line; the connection between the customer premises equipment (e.g., telephone) or public telephone and the central office. Includes all lines that are active and usable, rather than the entire installed base of lines.

Mbps (Megabits per second) - a unit for measuring the speed of transmission in a digital connection; one million bits of data per second.

mobile wireless - wireless telephony which allows for the movement of end-user equipment. Mobile wireless networks are set up as a grouping of base stations, each with its own coverage "cell." It is this concept that gave rise to the term "cellular phone."

modem - abbreviation for "modulator/demodulator." Modems allow the transmission of data between computers (digital devices) over analog lines. Modems are required for connectivity where broadband services are unavailable.

multiplexer - a device which aggregates transmission channels on a single medium, such as a telephone line or radio spectrum, and enables the sharing of these resources for more efficient bandwidth allocation.


network infrastructure - this term refers to the architecture, in terms of equipment and connections, that makes up a network.

network interface - the means by which users access a network for the purposes of communicating across it or retrieving information from it.

networked - connected together for communication or other information sharing.


online - describes a person using the Internet or a resource that is available over the network.

operating system - the core software on a computer which provides the interface between its hardware (processor, peripherals, etc.), its software, and the user.

operator - a telephone company; a business that provides telecommunications services.


packet loss - an error that occurs when data networks are overly congested. When pieces of data ("packets") are unable to be transmitted, they are sometimes "thrown out" by the network. Packet loss may or may not be disruptive to the recipient of the data, depending on the severity of loss.

penetration - the degree to which a technology has been adopted by a community. Teledensity is a measure of the penetration of telephone services.

piracy - the unauthorized duplication of goods protected by intellectual property law (e.g. copying software unlawfully).

programming - the act of creating software or some other set of instructions for a computer.

proxy - a server setup designed to offer either firewall security or faster access to cached content normally accessible only through slower connections.


satellite - a communications device in orbit above the Earth.

software - the programs or other "instructions" that a computer needs to perform specific tasks. Examples of software include word processors, e-mail clients, web browsers, video games, spreadsheets, accounting tools and operating systems.

software developers - The professional and amateur programmers who create software for use on computers.


TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol) - the set of protocols used for the Internet and by organizations for communications between networks.

telecenter - a facility that offers community members the ability to use ICTs in a publicly shared manner. Telecenters often provide the only connectivity available to many community members, and their services may be offered with or without a fee.

telecommunications - the networks that support or the act of communication across a distance through telephone, cable and radio signals.

teledensity - a term commonly used to describe the number of telephone lines per some unit of the population (often per 100 people); the density of telephone lines in a community.

transactional security - the degree to which online transactions, such as credit card orders, are safe from tampering or other unauthorized intervention.

twisted pair copper wire - the most common type of telephone line. The copper allows for fast signal transmission, and the twisted wires reduce transmission errors by eliminating interference from nearby wires.


URL (Universal Resource Locator) - an address that is used to locate a particular resource (website, file, server, etc.) on the Internet.

Usenet groups - small online communities formed around Usenet (short for Users' Network) discussion groups. Usenet is a type of bulletin board system for discussion and news postings.


web designer - a person or business that designs and prepares content for the World Wide Web, including text, images, site architecture and multimedia.

web hosting - providing space on Internet servers for the storage of World Wide Web sites which can be accessed by others through the network. This service is usually offered by ISPs or web hosting specialists.

web server - a specialized computer inside a network which sends out web content (pages, etc.) when a request is made by a web browser client. A website itself is hosted on the web server.

website - an information resource on the World Wide Web. Websites may provide information on any topic.

wireless local loop - the provision of telephony services to residences and businesses by use of a fixed wireless network (rather than a mobile wireless network). Networks based on wireless local loop (WLL) can be installed more quickly and less expensively than those using copper lines.

wireless telephony - telephone services based on signaling over radio frequencies rather than over fixed wires. Wireless telephony includes mobile wireless and wireless local loop, as well as microwave, satellite and spread spectrum radio based telephony.

World Wide Web (WWW) - an Internet-based system for the retrieval of information from distributed servers by use of a client or browser. The World Wide Web supports text, graphics and multimedia, and is a key medium for communication, business and entertainment in the Networked World.


We provide the above brief definitions to assist in use of the Guide. It is by no means exhaustive or complete, and may not even be totally accurate in some areas. For more detailed and complete information on computing and telecommunications terminology, please refer to the following glossaries:

Free Online Dictionary of Computing (FOLDOC)


The ITU Telecommunication Terminology Database (TERMITE)