Ireland not e-ready due to broadband divide

9 Apr 2008

One year on and Ireland remains 21st out of 70 countries in world e-readiness rankings due to the continuing urban-rural broadband divide.

The country did manage a marginal increase in its score from 7.86 out of 10 last year to 8.03. Top of the league is the US with a score of 8.95.

Despite this, Ireland remains above the 6.24 average amid a tumultuous year in the digital e-readiness stakes. The e-readiness rankings are compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, in collaboration with IBM’s Institute for Business Value, and rate countries on connectivity and technology infrastructure, business environment, social and cultural environment, legal and policy environment, government policy and vision, and consumer and business adoption.

Susanne Dirks, manager of IBM’s Economic Research Centre in Dublin told that Ireland performed well across most of the vectors. However, despite increased subscriber numbers, broadband progress was held back by the continuing urban-rural broadband divide, which sees over 10pc of the country currently unserved by broadband.

“The Irish position, with a score of 8.03, compares favourably with countries like Belgium at 8.04 and Taiwan at 8.05. They are all very close together and this is a great opportunity for Ireland to increase its ranking.

“The most interesting feature for Ireland was the steady progress it achieved in all areas, except business environment, but Ireland was strong in that area already.”

Communications infrastructure, Dirks explained, was Ireland’s Achilles Heel.

“We saw growth in Wi-Fi hotspots, security awareness and PC ownership. Unfortunately connectivity only went up slowly. The reason for this is the ongoing broadband urban-rural divide that exists in Ireland.”

This year’s league table indicates some backtracking among a handful of countries, notably within the top 10. After four consecutive years as the world’s most e-ready country, Denmark has fallen four places, as has Switzerland. Similarly, Finland has dropped three places and has been supplanted in the top 10 by Austria.

The US is now the global e-readiness leader, with a score of 8.95, followed closely by Hong Kong, which has advanced two places.

European ICT leaders have been unable, in some areas, to sustain the heady pace of development they had previously established. Both Finland and Denmark, for instance, were unable to maintain previous ICT spending levels or to improve upon (albeit impressive) public and corporate access to digital channels.

By contrast, those countries which have advanced in the top 10 – the US, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Australia – have largely done so on the back of improvements in connectivity, both in fixed and wireless broadband access, as well as in their innovation environments.

“The world’s most developed digital economies, and many less developed ones, continue to record impressive gains in broadening access to ICT and making digital services available to the population,” said Robin Bew, editorial director of the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“It is hard work to maintain this progress, however, and even the leaders have much to do to translate these gains into real economic and social benefits.”

The 2008 rankings show a narrowing of the gap between the digital haves, developed countries, and the digital have-nots, developing countries. Despite low progress in connectivity in Latin America, countries like Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Egypt have moved up the rankings thanks to better connectivity.

“In our research, we have identified three tiers of countries within the e-readiness rankings: established leaders, rapid adopters and late entrants,” said Peter Korsten, Global Leader of the IBM Institute for Business Value.

“These groups have remained relatively constant, but the most impressive improvements have been registered by the ‘late entrants’, as exemplified by countries such as Thailand, Peru and Romania, which have risen in the rankings by up to 17 places between 2001 and 2008.”

By John Kennedy