Zimbabwe’s capacity to exploit the opportunities offered by ICT for enhanced competitiveness and well-being has landed it at number 117 out of a list of 148 countries for the year 2014. This is according to the World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report (GITR) and its Network Readiness Index for 2014.
The annual report (available for download here) is published with an Index which gives a ranking of countries according to their ability to harness ICT for growth and improvement of standard of life and quality of living. Published since 2002 through collaborative efforts between INSEAD Business School and the World Economic Forum this year’s theme for the report was “Rewards and Risks of Big Data.”
When stacked up against other African countries Zimbabwe came in 16th trailing the usual suspects which included Mauritius (48th globally), South Africa (70th), Tunisia (87th), Egypt (91st), Kenya (92nd), Ghana (96th), Botswana (103rd), Zambia (110th) and Nigeria (113th).
Topping the global index was Finland followed by Singapore, Sweden and Netherlands. The United States came in 7th ahead of Hong Kong (8th) and The United Kingdom (9th). Other countries with a notable tech and innovation bias in the top 20 include Germany (12th), Taiwan in 14th place, Israel in 15th position and Japan on number 16.
The report managed to offer an interesting view on ICT’s importance in global restructuring and development and as the ranking would suggest, the countries that are taking full advantage of ICT in this arena have come out tops.
The need for developed countries to bounce back from the effects of the global financial crisis as well as the urgency that emerging economies ought to have in taking advantage of growth opportunities were issues also mentioned in the report.
Advantages identified for Sub Saharan Africa in terms of ICT growth include the growing importance of mobile technology and its impact on financial services. This has however been affected by poor infrastructure in the region as well as weaknesses in business and innovation ecosystems.
Looking at all this it would seem that Zimbabwe has the same lot of problems that plague the continent and region in one way or the other. We seem to have identified all these challenges judging from the high flown plans and strategies we have to tackle these issues.
A look at our ZIM ASSET blueprint and how it identifies IT as one way encourage growth and progress actually dovetails into the issues brought up in this report and its objectives. In light of this we have had the government “joining forces” with able friends like China through partnerships with heavyweights like Huawei.
What is frustrating is the lack of action on the ground to make all this a reality. I doubt that rising stars in ICT like Israel, Taiwan, Singapore, Kazakhstan, UAE and our African counterparts Kenya have been making the huge leaps and bounds we have noticed in the past two decades by creating colourful plans and parading them around without visible action. Who can forget the National ICT Strategy of 2010 that was pregnant with solutions but is no longer mentioned?
Plans that bear fruit have one thing in common – a lot of work follows them. This activity is not measured by “iconic” or photo friendly accomplishments but by grassroots delivery and commitment from everyone concerned. National ICT development is not for one ministry but affects everyone from primary industry to all service delivery models.
All the countries showing a high placement on this ranking and those acknowledged on any other economic progress list have one thing in common. They adopted IT in a holistic manner with a strong emphasis on relevant infrastructural development, long term investment in innovation and tech education whilst acknowledging and supporting techpreneurship’s gargantuan opportunities in the digital age.
Yes folks, it’s cliché but true. This millennium will belong to those that embrace tech at every level. This can and will be anyone including the small and medium sized businesses, gutsy but crazy entrepreneurs, aspiring multinational corporations and the nations seeking to assert dominance in military strength and strategy. A look at China, India and more recently Nigeria will bear testimony to this.
We do not even have an ICT Policy yet, despite assurances that it will be presented to Parliament soon. So how are we supposed to be sure that the boys upstairs really want ICT to be a necessary part of our country’s turnaround that is supposed to have started already?
Don’t get me wrong here, I appreciate the effort that some responsible parties have shown in acknowledging IT as a catalyst for efficiency and growth. Besides, we have a “new government” and they just might have the necessary secret sauce to make something out of all the promises that have been made(Fingers crossed here).
If we want to see Zimbabwe weave past other nations as the true centre of academic dominance and economic opportunity as displayed through ICT,with a good landing on any ranking we have to have less talk and more action. There is no reason why we cannot rank much higher in this index or any other ranking in years to come.