Sub-Saharan Africa trails North Africa in technology ranking :: 2009.04.23 16:34

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Sub-Saharan Africa trails North Africa in technology ranking

by Rebecca Wanjiku, Computerworld Kenya

22 April 2009

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Despite increased uptake and positive trends by sub-Saharan African governmeNorth Africa continues to lead in technology adoption and preparedness.nts,

A new report by the World Economic Forum titled "Global Information Technology Report 2008/09" shows that sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the rest of the world by a significant margin, with only two economies (Mauritius and South Africa, at 51st and 52nd place, respectively) in the top half of the Network Readiness Index, while 18 countries rank below 100th place in the 134-country study.

Northern Africa has better rankings, with Tunisia (38th) leading the way for a second year while Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria are down at 76th, 86th and 109th, respectively. Denmark and Sweden once again lead the rankings.

The report assesses the impact of ICT on development and stresses the importance of technology as a catalyst for growth in the current global economic crisis.

Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed growth in mobile technology uptake, but the report analyzes the role of technology in business processes and how easy it is for an international organization to set up business in the country.

North Africa has been in the front in hosting global technology meetings. Tunisia hosted the World Summit on Information Society in 2005 and showcased its technology prowess by providing free Internet connectivity and mobile-phone airtime to the more than 50,000 delegates gathered for the United Nations conference.

Morocco has hosted meetings for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), as well as technology training for the Africa Top Level Domain organization, events that require high-speed Internet and other support services.

On the other hand, sub-Saharan Africa has been struggling with policy implementation and adoption of policies, which has meant that few technology events are held outside of South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

One major issue that separates North and sub-Saharan Africa is covered in a chapter authored by McKinsey & Company, which highlights a set of policy considerations that policymakers and industry players should consider and address to enhance ubiquity and the benefits of mobile service when regulating in developing economies.

The report suggests that developing economies should ensure sufficient but not excessive competition; avoid direct price controls; attach strict rollout and coverage requirements to mobile licenses in order to prevent new players from investing in rich niche areas and neglecting more low-income and remote areas; and effectively manage spectrum allocation and pricing.

"Given that spectrum management has risen significantly in importance in emerging markets, spectrum policies will play a major role in delivering telecommunication services to users," said the report.

Africa is one of the emerging outsourcing markets, and the report details how outsourcing can help mobilize talents globally. Egypt has received special coverage for its successful experience as an emerging outsourcing gateway, its business environment strategy and ongoing technological development and skills.

While South Africa remains the highest-ranked country in sub-Saharan Africa, the report failed to assess the role the 2010 football World Cup played in raising the level of technology preparedness and bridging the digital divide.

The report, however, analyzed the role of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in bridging the digital divide and ensuring universal access.

"The 2014-Bis Program, which is expected to gain speed this year, intends to create a stronger country brand, showcasing unique Brazilian developments in terms of technology, scope, approach, and social impact, in parallel to the preparation of the World Cup 2014, which will be hosted by Brazil," concluded the report.

Reprinted with permission from Computerworld Kenya. Story copyright 2009 Computerworld Kenya Inc. All rights reserved.