South Africa moved up one spot to take 40th position among 70 other countries in this year's 2010 digital economy rankings.
The upward move was due in part to an improved social and cultural environment, which includes basic education levels, a key precondition for using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services. South Africa ranked third in the Middle East & Africa region after Israel and the UAE. It topped the region, though, in Legal Environment rankings measuring effectiveness of the country’s legal framework, laws covering the Internet and registration of new business.
Previously known as the “e-readiness rankings”, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual technology benchmarking study enters its second decade of existence with a new name—the “digital economy rankings”. Individuals and organisations across much of the globe now connect to the Internet and telecommunications networks on a regular basis, and “connectivity” is no longer an exclusively rich-world luxury. The 70 countries in the rankings may thus be said to have achieved a state of “e-readiness”. The study’s new title reflects the gradual shift of countries’ digital priorities from simply making ICT available to the population to maximising its use for economic and social benefit.
To make better use of the rich applications and services now available, people’s access to the Internet and telecoms networks must be of increasingly high quality. For this reason, the rankings model now assesses the quality of countries’ broadband and mobile access (based on existing fibre and 3G connections), in addition to their prevalence. This addition has affected the fortunes of the top-ranked countries: several in Europe and North America suffered a decline in their scores—and some a fall in the table—as their high-speed networks are in need of further development. Asian countries which have invested heavily in next-generation networks, on the other hand, moved up the table (see below).
However, according to Denis McCauley, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Director of Global Technology Research, “Strong digital development requires concerted action and progress across many fronts.” This year’s leader, Sweden, and most of the other top-tier countries boast, along with high degrees of connectivity, stable business and legal environments; strong educational and cultural drivers; supportive government ICT policies; and, partly as a result of all the forgoing, active and growing use of digital services by individuals and businesses.