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Analysis: MENA needs better integration of ICT into national competitiveness plans
Source: Booz & Company , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Thu April 5, 2012 10:04 am

UAE.  The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World, was released today by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD Business School. 

It published its Network Readiness Index (NRI) that ranks five GCC countries in the top 40 list globally, three of these in top 30: Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman, ranked at 27th, 28th, 30th, 34th and 40th respectively, demonstrating that they have embraced ICT to boost their country’s competitiveness. 

On the other hand, countries in the Levant and North Africa still lag behind and face important challenges to fully leverage ICT. Jordan ranked (47), Tunisia (50), Egypt (79), Lebanon (95), Morocco (91), Algeria (118), and Syria (129)

In general, elevation of ICT on the national competitiveness agenda coupled with a disciplined approach to national ICT plans execution and impact monitoring translate into stronger economic and social impacts.

“Digitization has contributed ~$27 billion in economic growth for the MENA region between 2007 and 2010 and generated 1.3 million jobs in the same period,” said Karim Sabbagh, Senior Partner and Global Head of Communication, Media and Technology Practice at Booz & Company.

“With the right efforts and ICT capabilities systems in place, it has the potential to continue doing so in the future, generating $30 billion in economic growth and creating an addition one million jobs over the next three years, in a part of the world that needs them urgently.”

“Despite top 30 rankings, the MENA region in general, and GCC in particular is vulnerable on the global ICT competitiveness scale,” said Milind Singh, Principal at Booz & Company.

“After gaining an average of four positions between 2009 and 2010, the top four GCC countries (Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia) surrendered their competitive momentum with an average regression of two positions in 2011.Only Kuwait has grown significantly, gaining 13 positions – albeit from a low starting position of 72.”

All North African countries have also declined in ranking this year, with Tunisia leading the pack with a 15 position drop. Egypt (five position drop), Morocco (eight position drop) and Algeria (one position drop) confirm the declining trend. Booz & Company explains that the decline in GCC ranks is not driven by deterioration in a particular area, but a faster progression by other countries. 

As a matter of fact, GCC countries have exhibited significant achievements in selected areas:

Four GCC countries rank in top 10 on Importance of ICT to Government Vision – Qatar (2), Saudi Arabia (5), Bahrain (6), UAE (7), with Oman a close 11th. GCC countries also fare very well on Government procurement of advanced technology, with Qatar being the global leader and Saudi (3), UAE (5), Oman (12) and Bahrain (17), all in the top 20.
GCC countries also fare well in having a supportive business and innovation environment, with Qatar (2), Saudi (7), Bahrain (11) and UAE (21) all in top 20.

Still, decline in the overall ranking stresses the need for accelerated and more effective action in translating government vision into national ICT policies, putting in place required enablers, and driving effective execution and impact monitoring.

The UAE, in particular, has slipped six positions and surrendered regional leadership, after steadily gaining ranks between 2007 and 2010. Most UAE indicators continue to rank between the 25th and 50th rank, with a few exceptional ranks above and below the band.

With world class telecom infrastructure, access to international talent and supportive business and operational environments, Booz & Company experts assert that the UAE is well positioned to regain its competitive position, with the enactment of the right policy initiatives, stakeholders’ engagement models, and performance enablers.

The UAE already ranks 5 on Government procurement of advanced technologies, 7 on importance of ICT to government vision, 14 on mobile phones penetration, and 15 on mobile cellular tariffs. At the same time, the UAE ranks 55 on international internet bandwidth per user, 79 on e-Participation, 72 on mobile broadband penetration.
“Digital applications offer unprecedented potential for economic, social and political development,” said Bahjat El-Darwiche, Partner at Booz & Company. “Policy-makers need to be aware of both growth and transformational opportunities, and how they can craft policies that promote ubiquitous digitization in a timely manner. They must facilitate the creation of new models enabled by digitization at a faster pace than the old models are breaking down.”

Booz & Company recommends five priorities for policymakers to accelerate digitization and maximize its socio-economic impact:
•Elevate digitization on the national agenda: Ensure that national policy and senior government stewardship provide the platform for progress; create a plan for digitization that is tracked and monitored, with accountability residing at senior levels of government
•Evolve sector governance: Segregate regulatory and policy roles; clarify both ownership and accountability for ICT and digitization
•Adopt an ecosystem philosophy: Address the convergence of telecommunications, media, and information technology; develop a strategy that addresses all stages of the value chain in a holistic way; and consider the local ecosystem as well as export opportunities
•Enable sustainable competition: Develop a competitive ICT model that stimulates both innovation and adoption, while ensuring sector sustainability and investments.  The end game is to create a capabilities system in-country that will allow each nation to advance against its own agenda and in a competitive manner – and do so sustainably.
•Stimulate demand: Invest in boosting digitization usage and service adoption; ensure that public services are available through e-channels

“The NRI has been adopted by several governments as a valuable tool for assessing and leveraging technology for competitiveness and development,” said Soumitra Dutta, Professor of Business and Technology at INSEAD, a co-editor of the report.

“To measure this impact effectively, we have introduced a new set of impact-oriented metrics this year that assess not just the availability of technology, but also the ways in which economies put that technology to greater use. Considering how ICT has become omnipresent, the focus has moved from access to making the best use of ICT in order to improve business innovation, governance, citizens’ political participation and social cohesion.”

Under the theme Living in a Hyperconnected World, the report explores the causes and consequences of living in an environment where the Internet is accessible and immediate; people and businesses can communicate instantly, and machines are interconnected.

“Hyperconnectivity is redefining relationships between individuals, consumers and enterprises, citizens and state, and we are beginning to see fundamental transformations in all areas of the economy and society,” said Robert Greenhill, Chief Business Officer, World Economic Forum.

The NRI uses a combination of data from publicly available sources and the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the Forum in collaboration with partner institutes, a network of over 150 leading research institutes and business organizations. This survey of over 15,000 executives provides insight into areas critical for networked readiness.

Booz & Company is a long-standing partner of the World Economic Forum and INSEAD and partner of this year’s Global Information Technology Report, where it contributed a chapter entitled ‘Maximizing the Impact of Digitization’. This chapter proposes a comprehensive econometric methodology for policymakers and business leaders to measure the socio-economic benefits of digitization across 150 countries over 10 years.

The study highlights that digitization multiplies the benefits of connectivity, as it generates three times more economic benefit than broadband alone. It also concluded that digitization benefits accelerate as countries mature in their digitization evolution. Countries in advanced digitization stage reaped 20% more economic benefits than countries at the start of their digitization journeys.

Digitization also contributes positively to job creation, with a 10 percent increase in digitization reducing unemployment rate by 0.84 percent.

More Communications and Technology reports and whitepapers are available on the Booz & Company website.

About Booz & Company
Booz & Company is a leading global management consulting firm, helping the world’s top businesses, governments and organizations. Our founder, Edwin Booz, defined the profession when he established the first management consulting firm in 1914.

Today, with more than 3,300 people in 60 offices around the world, we bring foresight and knowledge, deep functional expertise, and a practical approach to building capabilities and delivering real impact. We work closely with our clients to create and deliver essential advantage. The independent White Space report ranked Booz & Company #1 among consulting firms for “the best thought leadership” in 2011.

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