The Global Information Technology Report 2015: Digital poverty is still holding back global growth and development

The world’s developing and emerging economies are failing to fully exploit the potential of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to drive social and economic transformation and catch up with more advanced nations, according to the Global Information Technology Report 2015, co-published today by the World Economic Forum, INSEAD and Cornell University, with the support of Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company.

Data from the report’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which benchmarks 143 economies in terms of their capacity to prepare for, use and leverage ICTs, suggest that the gap between the best and worst performing economies is widening. Those in the top 10% have seen twice the level of improvement since 2012 as those in the bottom 10%. This demonstrates the scale of the challenge facing developing and emerging nations as they seek to develop the infrastructure, institutions and skills needed to reap the full benefits of ICTs, as only 39% of the global population enjoys access to the internet despite the fact that more than half now owns a mobile phone.

2015 Network Readiness Index ranks three GCC countries in the top 30 list globally for the third consecutive year, and another two in top 50.

click to enlargeThe United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman, ranked at 23rd, 27th, 30th, 35th and 42nd respectively, demonstrating that they continue to embrace ICT to boost their country’s competitiveness.  In contrast, countries in the Levant and North Africa still lag behind and face challenges to fully leverage ICT. Morocco ranked (78), Egypt (94), Lebanon (99) and Algeria (120).

“GCC countries continue to perform well in the global ICT arena, with three countries in the global top 30 ” said Bahjat El-Darwiche, Partner at Strategy&, and leader of the firm’s Communication, Media, and Technology practice in the Middle-East. “However, opportunity exists for the region to enhance its ICT competitiveness. Several countries have slipped in the last year with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt all regressing by up to four ranks in the last year.”

In line with the digital inclusion emphasis of this year’s GITR, a large digital divide in the MENA region exists with three countries – Algeria, Libya and Yemen. All three rank in the bottom quartile globally, while most of the GCC countries rank among the top quartile globally.

UAE leads the Gulf countries, ranking 23rd in the world for Network Readiness

“UAE leads in the region, while ranking in the top ten globally on three sub-pillars: Government Usage, Social Impact, and Business & Innovation environment”, added Milind Singh, Principal with Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company. “Overall, UAE has achieved improved footing in seven of the ten sub-indices contributing to NRI rankings. However, UAE needs to continue on this positive trajectory to climb the ranks and lead among global ICT player”.

The UAE’s most significant strengths include Importance of ICTs to government’s vision (1), Mobile network coverage (1), Impact of ICTs on access to basic services (1), ICT use and government efficiency (1), Impact of ICTs on new services & products (2), Government success on ICT promotion (2) and Government procurement of advanced tech (2). Its most significant weakness includes number of procedures to enforce a contract (137), Internet & telephony competition (124) and Fixed broadband internet tariffs (120).

Qatar ranks 27th in the world for Network Readiness

“Qatar ranks second in the region, having regressed four ranks in the last year, mainly on affordability and impact dimensions, while continuing to be strong in the ICT environment and Government usage and support for ICT, ranking 5th globally on the second dimension”, said Milind Singh, Principal with Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company.

Qatar’s most significant strengths include Government procurement of advanced tech (1), Venture capital availability (1), Mobile network coverage (1), Households with personal computer (1), Impact of ICTs on access to basic services (2), Importance of ICTs to government vision (3), ICT use and government efficiency (3) and Quality of educational system (3). Its most significant weakness includes Internet & telephony competition (126), Fixed broadband internet tariffs (123) and Number of procedures to enforce a contract (118).

Bahrain ranks 30th in the world for Network Readiness

Bahrain is ranked 30th globally and behind UAE & Qatar in the region. “Bahrain continues to rank favorably on government and individual usage sub-pillars of ICT (rank 4th and 14th respectively). The affordability sub-pillar, which assess the cost of accessing ICT and the level of competition in the Internet and telephony sectors, represents UAE’s most significant weakness with a 66th  place ranking”, said Milind Singh, Principal with Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company. “Overall, Bahrain has relatively maintained its global rankings, holding the same rank across four of the ten sub-pillars and exhibiting marginal improvements in four other pillars – highlighting a stable, but not improving ICT readiness”.

Bahrain’s most significant strengths include Mobile network coverage (1), Mobile broadband subscription (5), Use of virtual social networks (6), Government Online Service (7), Households with personal computer (7) and Individuals using Internet (8). Its most significant weakness include Number of procedures to enforce a contract (136), Fixed broadband internet tariffs (98), Number of days to enforce a contract (98) and Number of procedures to start a business (78).

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ranks 35th in the world for Network Readiness

KSA is ranked 35th globally and fourth in the GCC. Government usage of ICT provides its highest global ranking, coming in at the eight place, while individual usage exhibited a significant jump last year moving from 44th to 36th place. However, KSA regressed on seven out of the ten sub-pillars, exhibiting the biggest drop of 24 ranks on the Affordability sub-pillar, which assess the cost of accessing ICT and the level of competition.

“KSA’s relative decline is a symptom of other countries, regionally and globally, making significant strides across ICT environment, usage and impact and KSA needs to re-emphasize critical ICT factors to sustain its regional and global ICT competitiveness”, said Milind Singh, Principal with Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company.

Saudi Arabia’s most significant strengths include Mobile phone subscription (6), Government procurement of advanced tech (7), ICT use and government efficiency (7) and Importance of ICT to government vision (8). Its most significant weakness include Fixed broadband internet tariffs (124), Number of procedures to start a business (107) and Number of days to start a business (101).

Under the theme ICTs for Inclusive Growth, The Global Information Technology Report 2015 also features 10 essays from leading experts and practitioners that showcase solutions to allow everyone to benefit from and participate in the ICT revolution.

The report is the result of a partnership between the World Economic Forum, INSEAD and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. It benefits from the valuable support of Strategy&.

The editors of the report are Soumitra Dutta, Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean and Professor of Management; Samuel Curtis, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University; Thierry Geiger, Senior Economist, World Economic Forum; and Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director, Global Indices, INSEAD.


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