In the Global Information Technology Report 2004-2005, which was issued by the World Economic Forum last Thursday, South Africa was rated as 34th out of 104 countries worldwide in the global ICT index.
South Africa and Tunisia strengthened their positions among the 23 African countries covered by the index, being placed at 34th and 31st respectively, up from 37th and 40th positions last year. Mauritius ranks 47 and Botswana, which has improved its position by five places, ranks 50.
The report also revealed that the U.S. dropped four places to fifth, and surrendered top place to Singapore, which is rated as the top economy in exploiting global ICT developments for the first time. The report places the country as the best performer worldwide in a number of categories -- quality of mathematics and science education, affordability of telephone connection charges, and government prioritization and procurement of ICT -- it also gets extremely high scores in other areas, such as affordability of Internet access.
The loss in rank by the U.S. is less due to actual erosion in performance with respect to its past history, and more to continuing improvements by its competitors. The U.S. maintains global leadership in the business readiness component of the rankings, as well as in variables such as the quality of its scientific research institutions and business schools -- which have no peer in the world -- and the availability of training opportunities for the labor force, as well as the existence of a well-developed venture capital market, which has spurred innovation.
The Global Information Technology Report 2004-2005 consists of three main parts: the first part presents several analytical studies related to aspects of ICT development, including a case study on Taiwan?s impressive emergence over the last 20 years as one of the world?s leading manufacturers of ICT products; the second part contains detailed country profiles, providing a snapshot of each country?s level of ICT development; and the third consists of data tables with country rankings for each variable covered by the index. The overall main index of the report, the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by ICT, and establishes a broad international framework mapping out the enabling factors of such capacity.
Other findings relevant to EMEA in the report include:
-- Estonia leads central and eastern European countries, with a rank of 25 out of 104, thanks to its excellent regulatory framework for ICT.
-- Among the other markets, Israel?s performance remains noteworthy, with a rank of 18 overall showing excellent scores in variables such as levels of technological sophistication, the quality of scientific research institutions, the availability of venture capital and mobile phone penetration. Israel and Taiwan have scientific establishments that have built up impressive track records for technological innovation. Also worth mentioning are the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, both included in the index for the first time and entering the rankings at 23 and 33 respectively. The UAE?s first-rate performance seems to have been led by a successful government strategy of promoting ICT penetration and usage.
A comparison of the Networked Readiness Index scores over the last four years confirms last year?s trend of a narrowing digital divide between the most developed and least developed economies.