Africa continues to lag behind all other areas of the world when it comes to the ability to benefit from information and communication technology (ICT) developments, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
In its Global Information Technology Report issued Tuesday, WEF ranked 102 countries and territories by their “networked-readiness” index (NRI) – how well prepared they are to participate in and benefit from ICT developments.
Three components – economic and regulatory environment, readiness and usage – go into determining a country’s overall readiness index. These are further broken down into a total of 48 sub-categories including the market environment, infrastructure, education, cost of Internet and telephone access and level of usage among consumers, business and government.
South Africa was ranked as the continent’s most prepared country, ranking 37th worldwide, and well ahead of any other African country except Tunisia (40th).
Apart from Botswana (55th) and Namibia (59th), all the sub-Saharan African countries were ranked in or near the bottom quartile of ICT preparedness, sharing the lowest spots with countries such as Haiti, Honduras and Bangladesh, with some north African states such as Morocco (64th) and Egypt (65th) remaining in the third quartile.
South Africa’s use of ICT in business (24th) and government (27th) contrast strongly with poor individual consumer readiness to use ICT (67th). Readiness includes factors such as the presence of necessary skills to leverage ICT, plus level of access and affordability.
Tunisia demonstrated a more level environment, scoring particularly well on its market environment (29th) and political and regulatory environment (34th), while faltering on individual ICT use (56th).
African countries generally displayed a good political and regulatory environment, such as South Africa (23rd), Botswana (28th), Gambia (30th), Tunisia (34th) and Ghana (39th). Only Zimbabwe (100th) fell in the bottom quartile for this measure.
Infrastructure throughout Africa is regarded as generally poor. although Namibia (23rd) placed in the top quartile. Even worse were the rankings for individual readiness and use of ICT, with the best score achieved by Tunisia (56th in both categories) ahead of South Africa (57th for use and 67th for readiness). Government use of ICT ranged from strong in South Africa (27th) to mediocre in Tunisia (36th), Egypt (44th) and Morocco (47th) to poor in Ghana (67th), Nigeria (69th) and Senegal (71st) and abysmal in Zimbabwe (100th).
But the WEF concluded that the digital divide has narrowed slightly over the past two years. The gap between the NRI of the most-advanced regions and the least-advanced regions fell between 2001 and 2002, and again from 2002 to 2003, WEF said.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report can be found at: http://www.weforum.org