A 2016 update of our Snapshot series on network readiness, and the extent to which countries in the Caribbean are leveraging ICT to improve their competitiveness.
Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum (WEF), in conjunction with INSEAD and Cornell University, published the 2016 Global Information Technology Report (GITR), which examines the state of network readiness worldwide. In this year’s edition, 139 countries worldwide were assessed, with only five from the Caribbean/CARICOM region: Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
With the release of tis report, we once again examine the performance of the Caribbean/CARICOM countries included, and highlight some of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of each country, which contributed to their final scores.
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 have been 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 2016 exercise, 139 countries were assessed, a decrease from the 143 countries that were included in the 2015 report.
2016 NRI results for select Caribbean countries
For the 2016 NRI exercise, there was little change in the top ranked countries globally, as reflected in Table 2. Among Caribbean/CARICOM countries, Trinidad and Tobago was the top ranked in the Caribbean/CARICOM group. Further, Trinidad and Tobago was the only country that improved its ranking, moving up three spots from 70 last year, to 67.
Figure 1 highlights the NRI scores for Caribbean/CARICOM countries over the past 10 assessments, starting in 2007. Over that period, no Caribbean country experienced a steady and consistent improvement in their NRIs. Currently, it is only Trinidad and Tobago that has not had their NRI decrease since 2013, which regardless of the changes in their ranking, indicates that, based on scores, their network readiness is indeed improving.
Upon closer examination of the sub-indices for the Caribbean sub-grouping, and similar to previous years, 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 countries’ performance was weaker with respect to Usage and Impact, which suggest that businesses and governments in particular, are not using ICT/IT effectively, and consequently it is having limited impact on the countries’ economic and social development.
Similar to previous years, and for each country (or economy) examined, the GITR provides a comprehensive account of the results for all indicators assessed. Hence, countries can refer to those indicators and the scores they received to guide policies and initiatives they might wish to develop, which can improve their network readiness in the future. Table 3 highlights the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the countries in the Caribbean sub-grouping.
Having reviewed and reported on the NRI results over the past six years, the absence of Suriname and Barbados (in particular) in this year’s exercise was felt. The report indicated that those two countries had been excluded from the GITR 2016 consistent with The Global Competitiveness Report 2015–2016. Hopefully in the next edition of those two reports, the countries invited to participate will do so, as not only do we all benefit from the insights such assessment share, but the countries also can better examine their own performance, along with their perceived strengthens and weaknesses, in a global context.
It was also interesting to note that although the enabling environment and infrastructure might be relatively good among the countries examined, they are still challenged to harness the technology, evidenced by the lower scores received under the Usage and Impact sub-indices. It may thus be prudent for Caribbean policymakers and business leaders to consider the extent to which their organisations, and by extension their countries, are truly leveraging ICT and the Internet, in order to transition to digital societies.