‘Digital Poverty’ Holding Back Global Growth

A  lecturer attends to students at ICT-empowered Victoria University in Kampala

The Global Information Technology Report (GITR) 2015 has ranked Rwanda first globally in Government Success in ICT promotion to drive social and economic transformation.

According to the report – which was compiled by World Economic Forum (WEF), price Rwanda scored 6.2 points out of 7.

The Report was released this week in Geneva, Switzerland.

It features the latest iteration of the Networked Readiness Index which assesses the factors, policies and institutions that enable countries to leverage ICTs for increased competitiveness and well-being.

Government Success in ICT promotion is one of several sub-indexes of the GITR index overall, where Rwanda is ranked number one.

Overall, Rwanda was ranked No 83 out of 143 countries surveyed. Rwanda is the first country in the region and the 5th in Africa.

Commenting on the report the Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana stressed that “Rwanda continues to be one of the fastest growing African countries in ICT and there are several avenues for growth for the ICT sector – from e-commerce and e-services, mobile technologies, applications development and automation to becoming a regional centre for the training of top quality ICT professionals and research. A robust ICT industry creates wealth, jobs and entrepreneurs.”

He further added that “New developments include K-Lab, a youth innovation hub, Think a technology hub in Kigali, Rwanda Media Hub, The Office… and YouthConnekt, which connects the youth to role models, resources, skills and employment opportunities.”

The Minister further stressed that the new Kigali Innovation City (former technopole) which has already attracted the first Carnegy Mellon University campus in Africa presents a unique opportunity for not only real estate developers but also tech multinationals who want to provide the best living, learning and working environment to their global and home grown talent.

Many young Rwandans have turned their ideas into innovative companies. Many are starting a business when they graduate from university.

Since 2001, the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) assesses on an annual basis the factors, policies and institutions that enable a country to leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) for shared prosperity.

This assessment is based on an aggregation of 53 individual indicators grouped in four main components: environment, readiness, usage and impacts.

The individual indicators use a combination of data from publicly available sources and the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a global survey of 13,000 business executives conducted by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with its network of 160 Partner Institutes.
The world’s developing and emerging economies are failing to exploit the potential of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to drive social and economic transformation and catch up with more advanced nations, illness according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2015, published this week.

Data from the report’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which measures 143 economies in terms of their capacity to prepare for, use and leverage ICTs, suggest that the gap between the best and worst performing economies is widening.

Those in the top 10 percent have seen twice the level of improvement since 2012 as those in the bottom 10 percent.

This demonstrates the scale of the challenge facing developing and emerging nations as they seek to develop the infrastructure, institutions and skills needed to reap the full benefits of ICTs, as only 39 percent of the global population enjoys access to the internet despite the fact that more than half now owns a mobile phone.

The 2015 edition of the NRI ranks Singapore as the top country in the world when it comes to leveraging ICTs for social and economic impact.

The city state replaces Finland, which had been number one since 2013, and is joined in the top 10 by one other Asian nation, Japan, which climbs an impressive six places year-on-year to 10th position.

Occupying the third slot behind Finland is Sweden. The highest-placed G7 economy is the United States (7th), followed by the United Kingdom (8th). Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, ranks 13th, down one place on last year.

Progress by the world’s larger emerging markets towards networked readiness has been largely disappointing.

The Russian Federation is the highest-placed BRICS nation, climbing nine places in 2015 to 41st. It is joined in the top half of the ranking by China, which remains at 62. All other members of the group have declined, with South Africa coming next (75th, down five), followed by Brazil (84th, down 15) and India (89th, down six).

“The example of the BRICS is not unique: many other countries that have improved their NRI ranking over the last decade or so are now facing stagnation or regression. This is partly down to persisting divides within countries between rural and urban areas and across income groups, which is resulting in large portions of the population being left out of the digital economy,’’ said Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director of INSEAD’s European Competitiveness Initiative (IECI) and Global Indices projects and co-editor of the report.

“The report shows that the digital divide across nations is increasing and this is of great concern, given the relentless pace of technological development. Less developed nations risk being left further behind and concrete actions are needed urgently to address this,” said Soumitra Dutta, Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and co-editor of the report.

With high-income economies predictably occupying the top 30 places, the report does identify a number of countries that have made considerable improvements, both in terms of their index score and ranking.

Among those punching above their weight are Armenia (58th) and Georgia (60th), which are among the most improved nations since 2012.

Outside of the Caucasus, the UAE (23rd), El Salvador (80th), Macedonia FYR (47th), Mauritius (45th) and Latvia (33rd) all improved markedly during the same period.


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