Falling lower down the World Economic Forum (WEF) global information and communication technology (ICT) rankings is becoming an annual occurrence for South Africa, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.
The WEF this week released its Global Information Technology Report 2015 which contains its Networked Readiness Index (NRI) ranking. This ranking measures 143 economies in terms of their capacity to prepare for, use and leverage ICTs.
The index uses factors such as the political and regulatory environment, infrastructure and digital content, usage of ICT as well as economic and social impacts to calculate the overall NRI ranking.
And South Africa has slipped five places to 75th, meaning that it is now third in Africa behind Mauritius (45) and Seychelles (74). SA is wedged between Seychelles and the Philippines on the ranking.
In contrast, Mauritius has been climbing up the NRI ranking. The country has leaped from position 55 in 2013 to 48 in 2014, and now position 45 this year.
The gap between South African and other African countries is closing. Kenya, for example, has jumped six places to 86 on the index this year. Meanwhile, South Africa is also lagging far behind the top five countries on the NRI index which comprise Singapore (1), Finland (2), Sweden (3), the Netherlands (4) and Norway (5).
“Despite a score unchanged from last year, South Africa loses five positions to settle at 75th place in this edition. The country’s overall political and business environment remains one of its strengths (31st). In contrast, the general state of ICT readiness remains very low (102nd), the result of the poor quality of ICT-related infrastructure (85th), notably the limited international Internet bandwidth (128th),” reads the report.
“The cost of ICTs in South Africa is also a drag (107th). Nonetheless, individual usage has further increased with a 10-place jump to reach 68th. However, government still lags behind (105th), earning very low marks in terms of online services provided to the population (82nd). Overall, the potential of ICTs has not been fully unlocked. Their social impacts have not yet materialised, and they have not significantly improved access to basic services (101st) or facilitated citizens’ e-participation (88th),” adds the report.
However, the report has noted that Africa’s performance overall on the index has been “particularly disappointing” as 30 countries on the continent included in the sample appear in the bottom half of the NRI rankings.
Even Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, dropped seven places on the ranking to position 119.
ICT experts in South Africa have weighed in with their views on South Africa’s diminishing position on the NRI ranking.
Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of technology research company World Wide Worx, said SA is stagnating in the global ICT stakes.
“The new rankings confirm our contention that the South African government, regulator and parastatals have put the brakes on ICT development, particularly through their failure to license spectrum that is required for high-speed mobile broadband, inability to finalise digital TV migration, and unwillingness to open up fixed-line broadband,” Goldstuck told Fin24.
“The South African government’s ability to deliver in ICT has been examined, and has been given a ‘fail’ mark. Only the continued investment by private enterprise has prevented it from falling even further down the rankings,” said Goldstuck.
Adrian Schofield, director and vice-president of the Institute of Technology Information Professionals South Africa, also highlighted government’s failure to spark ICT development.
“It comes as no surprise that SA is continuing to fall down the global rankings,” Schofield told Fin24.
“The ANC government has – with few exceptions – consistently failed to grasp the opportunities arising from the adoption of technology, with the principal failure being the abysmal disaster of the move to DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) and the related lack of real broadband access for the majority of the population.
“Only a complete change of attitude in the DTPS (Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services) – and the removal of the DOC (Department of Communications) from this policy arena – will reverse the trend. We have all the policies we need but we are lacking the
will to implement those policies,” Schofield said.
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Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist
Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.
Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.
The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela. It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.
“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time. We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”
The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba. It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.
Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.
“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”
This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.
Sports streaming takes off
Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.
England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.
According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.
Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.
The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.
“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”
With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.
“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”
The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.