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Middle East lagging in IT competitiveness

EIU report shows Middle East economies lacking key factors to drive competitive IT industry

Saudi Arabia’s IT competitiveness has slipped, according to the latest report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The EIU’s report, How technology sectors grow: Benchmarking IT industry competitiveness 2008, shows Saudi Arabia going from 38th to 40th in the global rankings. Egypt, the only other Middle East country covered by the report, rose slightly to 53rd place out of 66.

The report, now in its second year, is intended to measure the ability of countries to build IT economies, based on factors including the overall business environment, IT infrastructure, human capital, legal environment, R&D environment and support for IT industry development.

Saudi’s overall score on the competitive index was 32.3 out of 100, while Egypt rated 25.3, in comparison to global leaders such as the US (74.6), Taiwan (69.2) and the UK (67.2). Neither Saudi Arabia or Egypt ranked in the top twenty for any of the six main areas that were measured.

The report, which is sponsored by the Business Software Alliance, looked at the IT industry environment in 66 countries, with particular weight given to the country’s IT infrastructure, including PC and internet penetration; human capital and investment in IT education and R&D environment, particularly the number of IT patents registered per head.

While both Egypt and Saudi Arabia ranked highly on the overall business environment, they both scored very poorly on IT infrastructure and R&D. Egypt’s investment in skills training, through programs such as the Egypt Education Initiative (EEI), was highlighted by the report.

Denis McCauley, director, Global Technology Research for the Economist Intelligence Unit said: “Policymakers and business leaders need to address the full combination of factors that enable competitive IT industries. Few countries can hope to build strong IT production sectors without strong business and legal environments, deep pools of talent, support for innovation, and the widespread use of technology throughout society.”

The report is available for download here.

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