1.1 The Networked Readiness Index 2015: Taking the Pulse of the ICT revolution
Attilio Di Battista,
World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum
When The Global Information Technology Report, was created in 2001, it was based on two key premises, which still apply today. First, information and communication technologies (ICTs) were becoming more powerful, more accessible, and more widespread. Second, they were playing a key role in enhancing competitiveness, enabling development, and bringing progress to all levels of society.
The past 15 years have provided ample evidence of these advances. Countries such as the Republic of Korea, Israel, and Estonia have based their national competitiveness on ICT products and services. The spread of ICTs have also had wide societal impact, especially on less-privileged segments of society. For example, farmers in developing countries have benefited from new ICT services such as real-time information about commodity prices and weather, and from the ease of money transfers. The effectiveness of governments has increased as a result of their ability to provide citizen-centric online services and to involve citizens in governance. ICTs have become key enablers of business and employment creation, and of productivity growth. For these reasons, ICTs have significant potential for supporting inclusive growth.
The results of the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), presented in this chapter, along with Chapter 1.2, which reviews the empirical literature on the impact of ICTs, provide additional evidence of this progress. But these same results reveal that, so far, it is mostly the rich countries that have been benefiting from the ICT revolution. Paradoxically, ICTs have opened up new digital divides. Although Internet access is expanding, 61 percent of the world’s population are not connected yet. The distribution of high-speed broadband and the use of mobile applications and advanced data services varies widely across and within economies. And although schools and firms increasingly have access to the Internet, the skills required to leverage ICTs remain woefully inadequate in many organizations.
The question of whether opportunities offered by ICTs are inclusive by nature or whether they are likely to increase the distance between the haves and the have-nots is a pertinent one. Some segments of the population may be exposed differently than others to labor market shifts induced by technological innovation, which can aggravate inequalities across groups with different levels of skills. Progress made in improving national competitiveness may create or deepen domestic inequalities if the unconnected become second-class citizens. In the absence of corrective mechanisms (e.g., specific policies to connect all citizens and give them access to relevant skills), ICTs could indeed contribute to a non-inclusive type of growth, thus exacerbating the problem rather than mitigating it.
Under the theme “ICTs for inclusive growth,” this year’s Report showcases compelling solutions and makes policy recommendations for avoiding the pitfalls, bridging the divides, and allowing everyone to benefit from, and participate in, the ICT revolution.