A 2013 update of our Snapshot Series on network readiness, and the extent to which countries in the Caribbean are leveraging ICT to improve their competitiveness.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), in conjunction with INSEAD, one of the world’s top business schools, have released their annual network readiness assessment, the Global Information Technology Report (GITR) 2013, which tracks the development of ICTs around the world. In this year’s publication, network readiness is considered with respect to “growth and jobs in a hyperconnected world”,
In this our third year of reviewing the GITR report, we again examine the performance of the Caribbean/CARICOM countries that are included in the report, namely, Barbados, Dominican Republic. Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. We will also highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of each country in select areas, along with concerns that the WEF/INSEAD have expressed with regard to the results emerging from the region.
The assessment framework
The assessment conducted by WEF/INSEAD produces a Network Readiness Index (NRI), which is a quantitative result that measures “the degree to which economies across the world leverage ICT for enhanced competitiveness” (Source: WEF-INSEAD). The NRI provides a comprehensive assessment of network readiness in individual countries (or economies) through 54 indicators, which are organised under ten pillars and subsequently categorised into four main indices as outlined in Table 1.
The maximum possible score for each sub-index is 7, and for each country (or economy) the four sub-indices are averaged to determine its NRI. In this year’s exercise 144 countries were assessed, whilst 147 countries were included in the 2012 report, and 138 in 2011.
2013 NRI results for select Caribbean countries
In its 2013 report, WEF/INSEAD again highlighted their concern about the Caribbean and Latin American region, noting that it:
… still suffers from a serious lag that prevents it from fully leveraging the potential of ICTs to boost regional productivity. The social and, most remarkably, economic impacts accruing from ICTs remain low in comparison to other regions, despite government-led efforts to develop and upgrade ICT infrastructure and despite governments’ increasing use of Internet to communicate and interact with individuals and the business community. Weaknesses in the political and regulatory environment, the existence of large segments of the population with a low skill base, and poor development of the innovation system are all factors hindering the potential that ICT developments could have on the regional economy. (Source: WEF/INSEAD)
For the most part, those views were applicable to the Caribbean countries assessed, as they performed weaker than they did in last year’s exercise (Figure 1 and Table 2). The exceptions were Haiti, Suriname (not shown in Figure 1) and Puerto Rico. Haiti and Suriname were assessed for the second time, and were ranked 141 and 117, respectively, out of 144 countries. On the other hand, Puerto Rico was the highest ranked Caribbean/CARICOM territory at 36, having shifted one spot since the last review.
The other countries – Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago – all dropped in the 2013 rankings. The largest decline was reported for Trinidad and Tobago, which dropped 12 spaces to 72; followed by Jamaica, now ranked 85 from last year’s 74; and then Guyana, which dropped 5 places to the 100th spot.
In terms of NRI results, Puerto Rico had the highest NRI of the entire sub-Caribbean group, 4.45, and overall was ranked at 36th out of 144 countries, as shown in Table 2. It was followed by Barbados at 4.49, which had been the highest ranked Caribbean country in previous years, but was now ranked 39; then Trinidad and Tobago, at 72, with a NRI of 3.87.
The NRIs for Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname showed marginal improvements since last year. The most significant change was recorded for Haiti, where the NRI jumped from 2.27 to 2.58, followed by Suriname, where a +0.14 increase was realised to 2.13; and finally, the Dominican Republic, where there was an improvement of +0.02 to 3.62.
Upon closer examination of the sub-indices of the Caribbean sub-grouping, and similar to last year, most countries secured their highest score under the Readiness Index, which measures infrastructure and digital content; affordability of telecoms services; and skills (Figure 2). On the other hand, the weakest performance was generally under the Usage Index, where to varying degrees, businesses and governments in particular, are not being seen as using IT effectively, and there is limited take-up of mobile broadband by domestic consumers.
Finally, although the GITR gives a comprehensive account of the results for all indicators assessed, which countries can use to guide the development of policies and initiatives that can improve their network readiness in the future, Table 3 highlights select strengths and weaknesses within the Caribbean sub-grouping. It is emphasised that the lists provided are not exhaustive, and that the strengths and weaknesses chosen are relative to the country under review.
In summary, the Caribbean lags behind considerably in the extent to which it is harnessing ICTs to promote economic and social development, especially in respect of growth and jobs, and to foster international competitiveness. Increasingly, countries in the region appear to be paying attention to the GITR, but it is not yet clear whether or not, or the extent to which, they are being guided by the report to in order to implement improvements. Having said this, it is important to highlight that countries worldwide are also continually improving their network readiness, which means that in order to improve one’s rankings, marked progress must be made relative to all of the countries that are being assessed.
Image credit: Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net