FOR the sixth year running, SA has slid down the rankings of the world’s most technology-savvy countries, with a lack of government commitment to technology blamed for the deterioration.
The government must concentrate on education and do more to encourage the creation of technology and telecommunications infrastructure, says the World Economic Forum (WEF).
SA now ranks 52nd out of 134 countries in the WEF’s Global Information Technology Report, down from 51st last year. The report assesses how well countries are using information and communications technologies by studying the business, regulatory and infrastructure environments.
The government in SA did not focus sufficiently on technology, and another problem was the standard of education, said Irene Mia, a senior economist at the WEF. “The quality of education is still assessed as quite low.” The inadequately educated workforce was highlighted as SA’s most problematic factor for doing business, followed by crime and theft, an inadequate supply of infrastructure and inefficient government bureaucracy.
It was vital for governments to put technology at the centre of the national agenda, and to work with the private sector in implementing that, Mia said. While many governments used the report to monitor progress and identify areas for improvement, that did not happen in SA.
SA’s business sector was actively contributing to the growth of technology and telecoms and the development of smart strategies, while the state was less active.
The research sponsored by networking company Cisco also showed that SA had been outranked by its near neighbour, Mauritius. Cisco’s director of business development in emerging markets, Enrique Rueda-Sabater, said SA rated well compared to the rest of Africa, yet its regulations and infrastructure both had a lot of room to improve compared to other countries with similar economies.
On the use of broadband technology, the report said “SA’s broadband penetration is very low by any standard”.
At a separate event yesterday, Paris Mashile, chairman of telecoms regulator Icasa, said the government’s policy of granting Telkom a lengthy monopoly had done little to benefit consumers. “Thank God we now have competition,” he said.
SA’s global tech rankings – give your views