Sri Lanka’s Place in the Global IT Report, 2015

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Every year, the World Economic Forum puts out something called the Global IT Report. This report, which ranks countries across a series of IT-related criteria, was one of the world’s first attempts to globally categorize the impact of IT across all countries.

Needless to say, that’s quite a difficult task: it’s always easier to write about things like the Internet than it is to assess how the world is doing on it. This year’s report, building off the Network Readiness Index, highlights some trends in Asia – and some Sri Lankan factors- that we all should be aware of.

First, let me point out that this is a piece highlighting a few pieces of data, not a dissection or a reverse-engineering of the WEF’s methodology.

Firstly, Sri Lanka’s at no. 65 on the Network Readiness Index. Singapore stole the #1 spotlight from Finland. Asia, in general, holds some strong contrasts. China is at no 62; India is falling – it’s at 89 now. The report looks at not just technology or money rolling in – China’s got plenty of that – but on quite a few factors.

Sri Lanka is fairly effective. Effectiveness of law-making bodies puts us at no 20 – better than Ireland, better than Australia, way better than Egypt (no 142). We’re middling as far as Laws relating to ICT go: no 63. The report encompasses quite a few legal factors, including the Independence of the Judiciary; Sri Lanka bounces all over middle of the charts on these.

The number of procedures to resolve a dispute, and the time taken to do them (counted from the moment the plaintiff files a lawsuit in court until payment), put us among the worst in the world.

Now for business terms. We’re not entirely sure how the WEF’s sources judged “availability of latest technologies”: Finland comes in at no 1, the US at no 2, Sri Lanka is at 70, India is at 110. Sri Lankan tax hits seem to be particularly high.  The procedures needed to start a business (9) and the number of days needed for that (11) may be something of a wall to jump over.

We’re not entirely sure how the intensity of competition stat is judged. This places Sri Lanka at no 16, one of the most competitive Asian countries on the list, but in terms of technology, there are so many areas that we don’t compete in. Sri Lanka does foster competition in certain fields – telcos, e-commerce websites, outsourced software development and so on. But as large are the technological industries we don’t compete in.

The infrastructure outlook is not impressive: while mobile penetration is high, estimations for electricity production and Internet bandwidth are low. However, we have some of the cheapest mobile and Internet tariffs in the world: as far as that goes, we’re the third cheapest in the world at both prepaid mobile tariffs and at the cost of a broadband connection. Stats like these are spread over 6 “pillars” identified; the 7th is the Business pillar. The 8th pillar looks into government usage; the 9th into Economic impact; and then there is the 10th, which attempts to measure social impact.

These pages are possible sources of contention where Sri Lanka ranks among the 50’s until one surprising page – the importance of ICTs to the government’s vision of the future.

Here, the traditional leaders are almost completely displaced. Heading the list are the UAE, Singapore, Qatar, Rwanda…and Sri Lanka, at no 16. We have a feeling this might (at least partly) be because of the constantly preached, government-endorsed visions of more tech startups, more Nenasalas. Sri Lanka’s government online service index is also comparatively good – at no 37. Government success at ICT promotion is ranked high at no 13. Despite this, Internet access in schools is poor (no 103 on the list).

Perhaps, after this endless list of stats and breakdowns, that last factor is the most obvious: improve ICT education in schools. As of the moment, Internet access to schools is bad, but ICT education at schools – while improving – seems even worse. An investment in education, to quote Benjamin Franklin, poses the best interest.  Perhaps the solution is not just to push for more, more and more, but to push for the right kind of more.

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