Two interesting reports of note that came to my attention today, that are related. Firstly, the Economist Intelligence Unit e-readiness rankings for 2006
. This places the UAE as 30th in the world and number 2 for the MEA region, after Israel. E-readiness is, to quote from the report:
...the “state of play” of a country’s information and communications technology (ICT)infrastructure and the ability of its consumers, businesses and governments to use ICT to their benefit. When a country does more online—or, as is increasingly the case, wirelessly—the premise is that its economy can become a more transparent and efficient one. Our ranking allows governments to gauge the success of
their technology initiatives against those of other countries. It also provides companies that wish to invest in online operations with an overview of the world’s most promising investment locations.
The e-readiness rankings are a weighted collection of nearly 100 quantitative and qualitative criteria, organised into six distinct categories measuring the various components of a country’s social, political, economic and of course technological development. The underlying principle behind the rankings is that digital business is at its heart business, and that for digital transactions to be widely adopted and efficient they have to thrive in a holistically supportive environment. E-readiness is not simply a matter of the number of computers, broadband connections and mobile phones in the country (although these naturally form a core component of the rankings); it also depends on such things as citizens’ ability to utilise technology skillfully, the transparency of the business and legal systems, and the extent to which governments encourage the use of digital technologies.
To end consumers, who face conflict with Etisalat regarding pay mechanisms, service provision, blanket banning of sites such as flickr, youtube, myspace and the like, this ranking doesn't appear to be make sense. But, looking at it from a broader sense, things are starting to come together in the e-economy. Of course there is a long way to go, but this ranking probably fits about right. What is sad is that the UAE could be even higher, but was hindered due to a relatively low score in connectivity rather than factors concerning infrastructure. What this means is that access and affordabilty are low scoring. It also takes into consideration Voip, which is currently not allowed in the country. Some would say that the weighting is skewed because of the high score that the UAE received in business environment, but in totality, the core accurately places the UAE,especially is you look at those placed close to it.
The other report worth looking at is the one released by Madar Research
(free sign up required to obtain the full 116 page report). The report, entitled United Arab Emirates Knowledge Economy 2006, provides an overview of the UAE and the separate emirates, in relation to institutional, infrastructural and human resources components of a knowledge economy. There is also a "roadmap" recommendation that the UAE is likely to take to position the country amongst other global players.
The report is actually very well written, and puts ICT in context amongst all the major factors in the economy and in comparison to the region. The precursor concerning the UAE context is succinct and to the point and provides an excellent overview to anyone wanting a snapshot of the country, talking of the general themes of economic diversification, construction, budgets, free trade and the like. And while the bulk of the report centers on the knowledge economy, it is worth a look. The reason why I believe it to be good is that it sticts to the facts, and doesn't really look to have an agenda, apart from providing good quality research. And, in places, it is critical where it needs to be, from a point of pointing out discrepancies where the UAE could do better. Despite all this positive gusto, this report demonstrates very clearly that there is a growing divide between the two powerhouse emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai with the others. However, if you have a few minutes to spare, this is a worthwhile read, especially for the information junkies, like myself.