South Africa has retained leadership status in some key areas of ICT development, including the legal environment, consumer and business adoption of ICT and government policy.
This emerged from the annual e-readiness report produced by IBM, through its Institute of Business Value, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Key highlights indicate that South Africa ranks:
* First in Middle East & Africa on legal environment criteria – the country's overall legal framework and specific laws governing Internet use (35th worldwide);
* First in Middle East & Africa on consumer and business adoption – prevalence of e-business practices in the country like availability and use of e-commerce and online public services (35th worldwide);
* Second in Middle East & Africa on government policy and vision criteria – the extent to which the government proactively supports and drives the use of ICT (34th worldwide);
* Second after UAE in Middle East & Africa for its connectivity and technology i- availability, affordability and quality of telephone services, PCs, WiFi hotspots and Internet (40th worldwide);
* Second after UAE in Middle East & Africa on business environment criteria – expected attractiveness of the business environment over the next five years (42nd worldwide); and
* Fifth after Turkey, UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Middle East & Africa on social and cultural environment criteria – preconditions of applying e-business including literacy, education, Internet experience, entrepreneurial attitude and innovation (53rd worldwide).
Overall, South Africa fell slightly in 2008 to 39th position. To improve its e-readiness position, the report recommends that South Africa makes strategic investments in infrastructure and encourages public-private partnerships to ensure progress and top quality.
“The rankings illuminate the factors that are driving, or inhibiting, countries’ progress in using ICT to advance economic and social development,” says Mark Harris, MD of IBM’s sub-Saharan Africa region.
He explains that whether the countries are "established leaders", "rapid adopters" or "late entrants", the public and private sectors must work together to promote the most effective use of digital technology toward the development objective.
“The sub-Saharan African market holds enormous potential, with double-digit growth flowing from the development and expansion of telecommunications networks, power grids and transport infrastructure,” Harris adds. “Demonstrably, private and public sector investment in the region holds the key for transforming the ability of the market to competitively participate in the global economy.”
E-readiness continues to advance across the globe, with the average e-readiness score of the 70 countries in this year's rankings rising to 6.39 (on a 1-10 scale), up from 6.24 in 2007. This overall progress, however, masks some backtracking among a handful of countries, notably within the top 10.