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African nations rank low in global ICT index

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Mauritius and South Africa are the best of a bad bunch among African countries with regard to the state of their information and communication technology sectors, says a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Networked Readiness Index, calculated by the WEF and global business school INSEAD, ranks 144 economies based on their “capacity to exploit the opportunities offered by the digital age.”

WEF says it determines this capacity on the quality of the regulatory, business and innovation environments, the degree of preparedness, the usage of information communication technologies (ICTs), as well as societal and economic impacts of ICTs.

The assessment is based on a range of indicators from internet access and adult literacy to mobile phone subscriptions and the availability of venture capital. In addition, indicators such as patent applications and e-government services determine the social and economic impact of digitisation, says WEF.

And African countries rank among the worst performing in the world with regard to the ‘Networked Readiness Index’.

Eight of the bottom ten nations in this list are in Africa, with these countries being Mauritania (135), Swaziland (136), Madagascar (137), Lesotho (138), Guinea (140), Chad (142), Sierra Leone (143) and Burundi (144).

Meanwhile, Nigeria comes in at 113, Kenya at 92, Egypt at 80 and Ethiopia at 128.

Mauritius and South Africa top the list of African countries in the index with each nation respectively having a ranking of 55 and 70.

Regardless of the poor rankings of these countries, the report says that sub-Saharan Africa has made efforts to build its ICT infrastructure, especially in terms of broadband and mobility. A growing number of internet users and some African governments’ commitment to introduce online services are also marked as positive developments by the WEC.

Subsequently, several African nations have moved up the rankings since last year, such as Ghana, which was ranked 97 last year but 95 this year.

However, the WEF says more work needs to be done to boost the effective adoption of ICT in Africa.

“Despite this positive trend, the stubbornly high sharp digital divide from more advanced economies, notably in terms of ICT-driven economic and social impacts, persists,” says the WEF regarding sub-Saharan Africa.

“A still-costly access to ICT infrastructure, relatively low levels of skills with low educational
attainments, and unfavorable business conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation are hindering the region’s capacity to fully leverage the potential of the increasingly available ICT infrastructure,” adds the report about the region.

North African nations, though, have also stumbled with regard to their ICT sectors, says WEF.

“Several North African and Levant nations have either fallen — or stagnated, in the best cases — in their efforts to leverage ICTs as part of their economic and social transformation process toward more knowledge intensive activities and open societies.”

Meanwhile, the Nordic countries and ‘Asian Tigers’ – Singapore, Taiwan (China), South Korea; and Hong Kong – dominate this year's Networked Index.

The WEF says that these countries have a “business-friendly approach, highly skilled populations and investments in infrastructure” with regard to ICT.

Finland has ousted Sweden this year to take the top spot in the index, while Singapore ranks second.

To read the full report, click here.

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