Snapshot: status of ICT development in the Caribbean 2012

An examination of how well Caribbean countries performed on the latest ICT Development Index published by the International Telecommunications Union.

In out post last week, Snapshot: How is the world performing as an Information Society?, we noted that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has published its latest Measuring the Information Society, in which it highlights key ICT developments worldwide and tracks the cost and affordability of ICT services. Continuing with our review of that report, we will be focussing on the latest results for the ICT Development Index (as of 2012), and specifically examine how well the Caribbean/CARICOM countries included the exercise performed.

Methodology

The ICT Development Index (IDI) comprises a variety of indicators that monitor and compare ICT development across the countries being assessed. According to the ITU, the IDI’s main objectives are to measure:

–   the level and evolution over time of ICT developments in countries and relative to other countries;

–   progress in ICT development in both developed and developing countries: the index should be global and reflect changes taking place in countries at different levels of ICT development;

–   the digital divide, i.e. differences between countries with different levels of ICT development;

–   the development potential of ICTs or the extent to which countries can make use of ICTs to enhance growth and development, based on available capabilities and skills.

The IDI consists of 11 indications organised under three pillars: ICT access; ICT use; and ICT skills, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1:  IDI indicators and weightings for 2012 exercise (Source: ITU)
Figure 1: IDI indicators and weightings for 2012 exercise (Source: ITU)

Using the weightings shown, the resulting IDI can have a maximum score of 10. In the latest exercise, 157 economies were assessed, including 10 Caribbean/CARICOM countries.

The Caribbean’s IDI results

The following Caribbean countries were included in the 2012 IDI exercise: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Guyana; Jamaica; Saint Lucia; St. Vincent & the Grenadines; Suriname; and Trinidad & Tobago. Their 2012 IDI ranking and scores are shown in Table 1.

Table 1:  IDI 2012 top 10 country rankings, plus select Caribbean countries (Source: ITU)
Table 1: IDI 2012 top 10 country rankings, plus select Caribbean countries (Source: ITU)

The majority of Caribbean countries slipped positions since the 2011 IDI exercise. The exceptions were Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Guyana, which improved their positions in the index, and Jamaica, which retained its 2011 ranking.

Having said this and for the most part, countries’ IDI scores have been improving, i.e. have been higher that the previous year. However, the decline in ranking that many Caribbean countries still experienced can be attributed to the marked improvements that other countries worldwide have made, which resulted in other countries (such as some in the Caribbean) to slide from their previous positions.

On an aside, it is interesting to note that neither the United States nor Canada – our neighbours to the north – made the top 10.  The United States was ranked 17th, and Canada was ranked 20th.

Although the IDI summarises an individual country’s performance, greater insight can be obtained from the sub-indices scores, which are combined to create the final result. Figure 2 shows the sub-indices scores for the 10 Caribbean included in the 2012 IDI evaluation.

Figure 2:  IDI sub-indices scores for select Caribbean countries as of 2012 (Source: ITU)
Figure 2: IDI sub-indices scores for select Caribbean countries as of 2012 (Source: ITU)

As reflected by the overall IDI scores and rankings, Barbados, followed by Antigua and Barbuda performed the best across the three sub-indices (access, use and skills). Interestingly, although Cuba’s IDI score and ranking were very low, the ITU reported that its ICT skills, based on the indicators measured (see Figure 1), was quite high – 18th among the 157 countries assessed.

Across the entire Caribbean sample group, the countries performed well under the ICT skills sub-index, which suggests that adult literacy, and secondary and tertiary enrolment are all relatively well developed. However, countries appear to be challenged with regard to ICT readiness, with regard to access to and availability of the infrastructure, and the extent to which the Internet appears to be used.

Under the ICT readiness sub-index, although mobile/cellular service penetration is high in the Caribbean – well over 100 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in most countries – fixed line subscriptions, international Internet bandwidth per user, and households with computers and with Internet access, are considerably lower. Moreover, over the past several years, persons have been relinquishing their fixed line subscriptions in favour mobile/cellular phones, which would has resulted in a marked decline in fixed-line penetration over the past several years. Further, the increased availability and take up of smartphones, offers persons an alternative to computers through which to secure Internet access, and could contribute to the lower access sub-index scores that were calculated.

With regard to the indicators under the ICT use sub-index, the percentage of individuals using the Internet would again be relatively high across the Caribbean, as persons may not necessarily need to have their own individual subscriptions, but can access service through cyber cafés and free Wi-Fi. Accordingly, and as has been noted in earlier Snapshots, fixed (wireless) broadband subscriptions in the Caribbean is still quite low, and the same would apply to wireless broadband subscriptions, for which research indicates the pricing is still prohibitively high for most consumers.

Concluding thoughts

In summary, and similar to the findings of other ICT-based assessment exercises that have been conducted, the Caribbean region is under performing. Generally, the rate at which the improvements are being made are not fast enough for them to maintain (or improve) their ranking and to compare favourably with other countries.

Further, in addition to suggesting that the region is lagging in becoming Information Societies, the limited state of ICT readiness indicates that Caribbean countries could be challenged to secure certain types of investment (e.g. those that are technology-rich) and may lose out to other countries (especially developing countries) that appear to have better integrated and fostered technology in their societies.

 

Image credit:  Sura Nualpradid (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

__________