A report issued Wednesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows a widening digital divide between leading world economies that include the United States and Japan and less developed countries such as Mexico and India.
Issued on an annual basis, the WEF’s Global Information Technology Report for 2016 measures the ability of nations worldwide to use information and communications technologies in boosting their economic competitiveness. Each country is assessed according to a Networked Readiness Index which, in turn, encompasses 53 indicators of regulation, technology affordability, infrastructure deployment, technology adoption by the public, and associated economic impacts. Mirroring the results of the 2015 report, Singapore, Japan, the U.S., Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Israel led the list this year, with Singapore taking the top spot. China moved up three spots in the worldwide rankings to 59th place, owing mainly to a two-fold jump in subscriptions to wireline and wireless Internet services. The report notes, however, that a significant digital divide persists between China’s densely populated urban regions and its vast expanses of rural areas. Other upward movers include Italy (which improved ten places to rank 45th) and Brazil, which moved up ten places to the 72nd position.
Various other countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia also made strides, and the WEF affirmed that, “overall, the vast majority of countries are improving their scores.” Mexico and India lost ground in the survey, however, ranking in 76th place and 91st place, respectively. In Europe, Greece fell four spots to 70th place while Bosnia-Herzegovina ranked last at 97th place. For these and other “lagging” countries, the high cost of fixed and mobile Internet access and other communications technologies was fingered as a contributing factor to their poor rankings. At the same time, affordability and ease of access to digital and other advanced services, as well as favorable regulatory environments, were cited in the success of national economies that earned top or improved rankings.