April 5, 2012

MENA Needs Better Integration of ICT into National Competitiveness Plans

The 11th edition of The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World launched today with a special focus on the transformational impacts of ICT on economy and society.

  • The MENA region shows large disparities: GCC countries continue to lead the region, followed by North African countries, then the Levant
  • The Report further explores the socio-economic impact of Digitization, or the mass adoption of connected ICT services, through a dedicated chapter from Booz & Company – Digitization in the MENA region has contributed $27 billion in economic growth and generated 1.3 million jobs between 2007-2010
Sustaining success requires regional ICT leaders to evolve policy and sector development actions beyond connectivity, and accelerate the identification and build-up of ‘right to win’ capabilities in the new digitization era, including speed, usability, skills, innovation, and entrepreneurship Read the full Report, watch interviews, access data and other materials at http://www.weforum.org/gitr

  • GCC countries have achieved several exceptional ranks, particularly in areas of government support and encouragement of ICT:

    • Four GCC countries rank in top 10 on Importance of ICT to Government Vision – Qatar (2), Saudi Arabia (5), Bahrain (6), UAE (7), with Oman a close 11th

    • GCC countries also fare very well on Government procurement of advanced technology, with Qatar being the global leader and Saudi (3), UAE (5), Oman (12) and Bahrain (17), all in the top 20

    • GCC countries also excel in having a supportive business and innovation environment, with Qatar (2), Saudi (7), Bahrain (11) and UAE (21) all in top 20

    • Finally, GCC countries are leading the world on availability of mobile infrastructure, with UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait joint first in coverage of mobile telephony


The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World, was released today by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD Business School.  It published its Network Readiness Index (NRI) that ranks five GCC countries in the top 40 list globally, three of these in top 30: Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman, ranked at 27th, 28th, 30th, 34th and 40th respectively, demonstrating that they have embraced ICT to boost their country’s competitiveness.  On the other hand, countries in the Levant and North Africa still lag behind and face important challenges to fully leverage ICT. Jordan ranked (47), Tunisia (50), Egypt (79), Lebanon (95), Morocco (91), Algeria (118), and Syria (129).

In general, elevation of ICT on the national competitiveness agenda coupled with a disciplined approach to national ICT plans execution and impact monitoring translate into stronger economic and social impacts.

“Digitization has contributed ~$27 billion in economic growth for the MENA region between 2007-2010 and generated 1.3 million jobs in the same period,” said Karim Sabbagh, Senior Partner and Global Head of Communication, Media and Technology Practice at Booz & Company. “With the right efforts and ICT capabilities systems in place, it has the potential to continue doing so in the future, generating $30 billion in economic growth and creating an addition one million jobs over the next three years, in a part of the world that needs them urgently.”

“Despite top 30 rankings, the MENA region in general, and GCC in particular is vulnerable on the global ICT competitiveness scale,” said Milind Singh, Principal at Booz & Company. “After gaining an average of four positions between 2009 and 2010, the top four GCC countries (Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia) surrendered their competitive momentum with an average regression of two positions in 2011. Only Kuwait has grown significantly, gaining 13 positions – albeit from a low starting position of 72.”

All North African countries have also declined in ranking this year, with Tunisia leading the pack with a 15 position drop. Egypt (five position drop), Morocco (eight position drop) and Algeria (one position drop) confirm the declining trend. Booz & Company explains that the decline in GCC ranks is not driven by deterioration in a particular area, but a faster progression by other countries.  As a matter of fact, GCC countries have exhibited significant achievements in selected areas: Four GCC countries rank in top 10 on Importance of ICT to Government Vision – Qatar (2), Saudi Arabia (5), Bahrain (6), UAE (7), with Oman a close 11th. GCC countries also fare very well on Government procurement of advanced technology, with Qatar being the global leader and Saudi (3), UAE (5), Oman (12) and Bahrain (17), all in the top 20. GCC countries also fare well in having a supportive business and innovation environment, with Qatar (2), Saudi (7), Bahrain (11) and UAE (21) all in top 20. Still, decline in the overall ranking stresses the need for accelerated and more effective action in translating government vision into national ICT policies, putting in place required enablers, and driving effective execution and impact monitoring.

“Digital applications offer unprecedented potential for economic, social and political development,” said Bahjat El-Darwiche, Partner at Booz & Company. “Policy-makers need to be aware of both growth and transformational opportunities, and how they can craft policies that promote ubiquitous digitization in a timely manner. They must facilitate the creation of new models enabled by digitization at a faster pace than the old models are breaking down.”

Booz & Company recommends five priorities for policymakers to accelerate digitization and maximize its socio-economic impact:

  • Elevate digitization on the national agenda: Ensure that national policy and senior government stewardship provide the platform for progress; create a plan for digitization that is tracked and monitored, with accountability residing at senior levels of government
  • Evolve sector governance: Segregate regulatory and policy roles; clarify both ownership and accountability for ICT and digitization
  • Adopt an ecosystem philosophy: Address the convergence of telecommunications, media, and information technology; develop a strategy that addresses all stages of the value chain in a holistic way; and consider the local ecosystem as well as export opportunities
  • Enable sustainable competition: Develop a competitive ICT model that stimulates both innovation and adoption, while ensuring sector sustainability and investments.  The end game is to create a capabilities system in-country that will allow each nation to advance against its own agenda and in a competitive manner – and do so sustainably.
  • Stimulate demand: Invest in boosting digitization usage and service adoption; ensure that public services are available through e-channels

“The NRI has been adopted by several governments as a valuable tool for assessing and leveraging technology for competitiveness and development,” said Soumitra Dutta, Professor of Business and Technology at INSEAD, a co-editor of the report. “To measure this impact effectively, we have introduced a new set of impact-oriented metrics this year that assess not just the availability of technology, but also the ways in which economies put that technology to greater use. Considering how ICT has become omnipresent, the focus has moved from access to making the best use of ICT in order to improve business innovation, governance, citizens’ political participation and social cohesion.”

Under the theme Living in a Hyperconnected World, the report explores the causes and consequences of living in an environment where the Internet is accessible and immediate; people and businesses can communicate instantly, and machines are interconnected. “Hyperconnectivity is redefining relationships between individuals, consumers and enterprises, citizens and state, and we are beginning to see fundamental transformations in all areas of the economy and society,” said Robert Greenhill, Chief Business Officer, World Economic Forum.

The NRI uses a combination of data from publicly available sources and the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the Forum in collaboration with partner institutes, a network of over 150 leading research institutes and business organizations. This survey of over 15,000 executives provides insight into areas critical for networked readiness.

Booz & Company is a long-standing partner of the World Economic Forum and INSEAD and partner of this year’s Global Information Technology Report, where it contributed a chapter entitled ‘Maximizing the Impact of Digitization’. This chapter proposes a comprehensive econometric methodology for policymakers and business leaders to measure the socio-economic benefits of digitization across 150 countries over 10 years. The study highlights that digitization multiplies the benefits of connectivity, as it generates three times more economic benefit than broadband alone. It also concluded that digitization benefits accelerate as countries mature in their digitization evolution. Countries in advanced digitization stage reaped 20% more economic benefits than countries at the start of their digitization journeys. Digitization also contributes positively to job creation, with a 10 percent increase in digitization reducing unemployment rate by 0.84 percent.