Interestingly enough, there are wide differences among the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states in regard to their performance on the Network Readiness Index. To put it more simply, the extent of their technological readiness.
At least, this was the judgment in the Global Information Technology Report 2014 issued by the World Economic Forum in partnership with INSEAD, the business school, and Cornell University.
Three of the six GCC members Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain are among the Top 30 global achievers, which focuses on how each economy has fared in the field of information and communication technologies.
The UAE turned in an exceptional performance advancing by a single ranking to be 24th and just behind Qatar. The latter's ranking is the best among Arab countries at large, undoubtedly a source of pride for a nation which will be hosting the World Cup 2022 for the first time in the Mena region.
Qatar's strength is the result of attracting universities and colleges to its Educational City project. The scheme boasts a number of renowned international primarily American universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth and Georgetown to name a few.
These institutions are credited with contributing towards Qatar's achievements through a focus on learning resources.
Kuwait sustained a setback with its ranking dropping 10 positions to be 72nd among 148 nations reviewed. Saudi Arabia dropped a position to be 32nd.
Qatar, Bahrain and Oman maintained their previous year's rankings of 23rd, 29th and 40th respectively.
The report ranks reviewed countries on the basis of their achievement on NRI, in turn derived from performance in 10 categories generated through four sub-indices.
The sub-indices comprise of the environment (political and regulatory plus business conditions); readiness (infrastructure, affordability and skills; usage (individual, business and government); and impact (economic and social).
The top ranked GCC countries are regional leaders in the sub-indices, led by Qatar on the environment and usage areas, while the UAE and Bahrain led in the overall impact and readiness or affordability of ICT.
Qatar is ranked 13th worldwide on the environment sub-index, a clear recognition of its business-friendly regulatory practices. It ranked 18th globally with regards to usage of ICT by individuals, businesses and the government sector.
Bahrain is ranked 32nd on affordability of ICT, thereby reaping the benefits from liberalising the telecom sector. Numerous firms compete for internet, mobile and fixed-line services in Bahrain. But it is ranked only at the 40th on the environment sub-index, considerably behind its overall ranking on the NRI.
This could be because it reflects the socio-political challenges since early 2011.
The UAE leads in the impact category by achieving the 18th spot globally. The sub-index considers the broad economic and social impact accrued from ICT. Undoubtedly, the UAE has been transformed into a technology-savvy economy and society across the board with e-gates at airports and e-government services at large.
Certainly, demographics play a factor in all the GCC countries, as youths who make up half of the populations have a natural appreciation for technology.
Yet, the GCC needs to overcome some critical shortages including the limited success in attracting innovators. In the age of globalisation, professionals are in demand and hence can move around the around; hence the need to sustain an environment conducive for human capital.
The writer is a member of parliament in Bahrain.