Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been lagging in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a major report.
Just four nations from the region featured among the top 50 of 133 countries in the 'Global Information Technology Report' rankings. The report — published annually by the World Economic Forum — assesses the impact of ICTs on countries' development and competitiveness.
It ranked the 133 countries according to a 'Network Readiness Index', which measures how prepared a country is to effectively use ICTs in economic, environmental and social contexts.
The highest ranking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were Barbados (35), Chile (40), Puerto Rico (45) and Costa Rica (49). Brazil remained at 61, whereas Mexico and Argentina "seem to be losing ground" ranking at 78 and 91, respectively, the report said.
Countries in the region that show most improvement since last year include Colombia, Panama and Uruguay; but Jamaica and Guatemala, alongside Colombia, show most improvement since the 2001–2002 edition of the report.
Barbados is the region's top performer because of "its ICT-conducive environment, especially the regulatory and infrastructure components, coupled with very high levels of individual usage," Irene Mia, co-editor of the report, told SciDev.Net.
Brazil's performance is fairly good, Mia said. But it needs to overcome several weaknesses including "the quality of education, red tape and high ICT access costs — especially mobile tariffs, fixed broadband tariff and residential monthly telephone subscriptions".
Mexico fell eleven places from last year, its main weaknesses being overregulated markets and low ICT penetration rates, said Mia.
Néstor Bercovich, coordinator for the Information Society Programme of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, told SciDev.Net that all of the countries in the region need to do more regarding the spread and use of ICTs, especially broadband.
Of the developing nations, China, India and Vietnam have progressed the most in the rankings, with China and India jumping 9 and 11 places in a year respectively, to positions 37 and 43. Most Sub-Saharan African countries "trail behind the rest of the world in networked readiness" with only Mauritius (53) and South Africa (62) in the top half.
The report said that although ICTs performance is broadly correlated with income levels, there are exceptions, such as China, Gambia, Malaysia and Tunisia, that all rank higher than richer countries in their income-level group.