A 2015 update of our Snapshot series on network readiness, and the extent to which countries in the Caribbean are leveraging ICT to improve their competitiveness.
It is that time again when the World Economic Forum (WEF), in conjunction with INSEAD and Cornell University, two of the world’s top business schools, examine the state of network readiness worldwide. This year, 143 countries have been assessed including eight from the Caribbean/CARICOM region: Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
With the release of the Global Information Technology Report (GITR) 2015, we examine the performance of the Caribbean/CARICOM countries included in the report, and highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of each country in select areas.
The assessment framework
The Network Readiness Index (NRI) is a quantitative result that measures “the degree to which economies across the world leverage ICT for enhanced competitiveness” (Source: WEF). The NRI provides a comprehensive assessment of network readiness in individual countries (or economies) through 53 indicators, which 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. For the 2015 exercise, 143 countries were assessed, a decrease from the 148 countries that were included in the 2014 report.
2015 NRI in the Caribbean
For the 2015 NRI exercise, there was little change in the top ranked countries globally, as reflected in Table 2. Among Caribbean/CARICOM countries, Barbados reclaimed its position as the top ranked in that group, and experienced the greatest improvement in position – 16 places. Further, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, all had improvements in their NRI scores, whilst the remainder of the group did not. However, even with lower scores than those recorded in 2014 both the Dominican Republic’s and Suriname’s rankings were able to retain their 2014 ranking, whilst Haiti’s actually improved.
Over the past nine assessments, starting in 2007, and as shown in Figure 1, no Caribbean country has experienced a steady and consistent improvement in their NRI across that period. Currently, it is only Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago that have not had their NRI decrease since 2014, which regardless of the changes in their ranking, indicate that they their network readiness is indeed improving.
Upon closer examination of the sub-indices of the Caribbean sub-grouping, and similar to last year, the majority of 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 ICT/IT effectively, and there is still limited take-up of mobile broadband by domestic consumers.
To its credit, 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 the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the countries in the Caribbean sub-grouping, many of which are a repeat from last year.
Over the years, the assessment team has been refining the metrics and indicators it has been using – to ensure that, among other things, the factors considered are relevant to determining network readiness – which would have affected the scores calculated. However and perhaps more importantly, the standards for what must be achieved – to secure a perfect score, for example – would also have changed over the years, as the technology itself, and its role in the world, also continues to change. This raising of the bar, and would be reflected in a country’s performance, especially if its standards have not improved with the evolving global norms.