SA’s slide towards the wrong side of the digital divide

The Global Information Technology Report 2012 was released by the World Economic Forum, showing that South Africa’s ICT readiness is now worse than it has ever been.

The 2012 report examines 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), highlights that a significant 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 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

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.”

The 2012 report further shows that South Africa’s ICT competitiveness is at its lowest levels ever when looking at the country’s relative position in the world. It is also the first time that South Africa finds itself in the bottom half of the rankings.

The following graph shows South Africa’s relative position in the Networked Readiness Index rankings over the last five years.

South Africa's relative Network Readiness Index ranking
South Africa's relative Network Readiness Index ranking

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SA’s slide towards the wrong side of the digital divide