The Global Information Technology Report 2012 was released by the World Economic Forum, examining the success of 142 countries in using information and communications technology to boost economic competitiveness.
This report, which features the latest results of the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), offering an overview of the current state of ICT readiness in the world, says the digital divide persists between developed and developing countries – and even in regions like Europe.
The 441-page report uses a broad range of measures to rank countries on the success of their overall efforts to use such ICT technology to improve business, government and the lives of individuals.
At the top of the rankings are advanced economies – Sweden, Singapore, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, United States, Canada and Britain.
At the bottom are many poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as Nepal, Syria, East Timor and Haiti.
South Africa is ranked in 72nd place (out of 142 countries) despite its strong performance in areas like political and regulatory environments and framework conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Despite counting on one of the most solid political and regulatory environments (23rd) and better framework conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation (50th) in the region, South Africa, at 72nd place, is not yet leveraging the potential benefits associated with ICT,” the report states.
“Important shortcomings in terms of basic skills availability (94th) in large segments of the population and the high costs (94th) of accessing the insufficiently developed ICT infrastructure (82nd) result in poor rates of ICT usage (76th), despite efforts on the part of the business community to use ICT and integrate it in a broader, firm-based innovation system (34th).”
“As a result, the economic impacts accruing from ICT are patchy (59th) and the social impacts disappointing (98th). Upgrading the overall skills at all layers of society and increasing efforts to build affordable infrastructure for all would allow the country to increase its ICT readiness and uptake and, in turn, spread its impacts across society.”
Affordability (and spectrum needed)
South Africa fared particularly poorly when it came to the affordability of telecoms services.
The country ranked at number 85 for mobile cellular tariffs, at 83 for fixed broadband Internet tariffs, and at a very low 114 for Internet & telephony competition.
The report highlights that mobile broadband can boost the economy and job creation, given that the needed spectrum is assigned.
“In South Africa, mobile broadband and related industries could generate about 28,000 new jobs and 1.8 percent of GDP by 2015 if sufficient spectrum is allocated,” the report said.