Information and communication technologies have a proven impact on a country’s economic and social performance, and if emerging countries wish to go on developing they need to embrace digital technology.

Countries still struggling to integrate ICTs into government policies

The 2015 Global Information Technology Report by multinational professional services network PwC and global management and strategy consulting firm Strategy& points to the existence of a real divide between developed and emerging countries, and highlights the widening gap between countries which have access to the advantages provided by the Internet and those that do not. The report underlines that in 2015 the Internet is still only available to 39% of the world’s population.

The main finding of the report is that most countries are not managing to integrate ICTs into government policy. This despite the fact that these technologies really can drive transformation, both from an economic and social point of view. Improving access to Internet services and encouraging connectivity will lead to job creation, underline the authors. In addition, the Internet has the potential to change the way in which citizens communicate and engage with their governments.

The top 10 countries using ICTs to best advantage

The report provides a ranking of 143 countries using a weighted set of criteria called NRI (Networked Readiness Index). The NRI is a composite of three components: the environment for ICTs offered by a given country or community (market, political, regulatory, and infrastructure environment), the readiness of the country's key stakeholders (individuals, businesses, and governments) to use ICTs, and the actual usage of ICTs among these stakeholders. It assesses on a scale of 1 to 7 the performances of the 143 countries as regards using ICTs to boost competitiveness.

Among the countries best placed to use ICTs to generate economic and social progress, Singapore tops the list, closely followed by Finland and Sweden. Perhaps surprisingly, some important countries such as China and Russia come quite far down the ranking – China is in 62nd place and Russia in 41st. Among the emerging countries at the bottom of the ranking we find African countries in the majority, with Ethiopia in 130th place, Angola in 140th and Chad on the bottom rung. However, some developing countries are posting the highest rates of progress: Armenia stands 58th in the list and Georgia appears in 60th place.

A world map colour-coded to show networked readiness levels

There is a very obvious gap between the upper and lower areas of the map. Out of the 143 countries analysed in the report, those among the top 10% in terms of getting the most out of using ICTs have made twice as much recent improvement as the countries among the 10% least network-ready.

What can be done to reduce this gap? The report’s authors argue that only businesses, supported by the right government initiatives, can reverse the trend. People in emerging countries need leadership from their governments to encourage the adoption of ICTs. The governments ought to be encouraging synergy between the various players involved – telecoms operators, ICT specialists and content providers and the public sector – so as to ensure continuous delivery of local digital content. The whole strategy should be geared to developing a digital ecosystem. Bahjah El Darwiche, telecoms expert at Strategy&, underlines that governments must encourage all citizens to use ICTs if they are to have any chance of transforming their economies. ‟Providing more high-quality local content will lead to job creation and generate higher revenues for millions of people in emerging markets,” he argues.

By Anthéa Delpuech