In the most recent Global Information Technology Report released Wednesday, Puerto Rico ranked second among the region’s most connected jurisdictions, behind only Barbados. However, the island ranks 36th in the world in terms of connectivity, which still denotes the persistence of a significant digital divide.
The GITR is produced by the World Economic Forum annually to evaluate the status of information technology advances in developed countries and their direct impact on the economy.
The 11th edition of the study measured technological use in 142 countries, which placed Puerto Rico in the top third tier of the group. However, the island is still significantly behind the United States, which landed in the 8th position.
The report stated that although the island enjoys a robust information and communications technologies infrastructure and identifies the private sector main driver of these technologies is, the public sector could have a more prominent role in catalyzing the sector as a purchaser of computer technologies and communications.
Puerto Rico, which seeks to become a knowledge-driven economy, can improve its innovation potential medium to long term by increasing the level of achievement in science and mathematics in the public education system to expand broadband coverage in several regions of the island to build an inclusive information society through the intense adoption of information and communications technologies as the foundation for sustainable development, social welfare and economic growth, the study pointed out.
This year, Sweden and Singapore topped the report’s ranking, taking the most advantage of technology and maximizing the economic and social multiplier effect, the GITR said.
“Over the past decade, the world has become increasingly hyperconnected. We live in an environment where the Internet and its associated services are accessible and immediate, where people and businesses can communicate with each other instantly, and where machines are equally interconnected with each other,” the study stated.
“This hyperconnectivity is deeply redefining relationships between individuals, consumers and enterprises, and citizens and governments; it is introducing new opportunities but also new challenges and risks in terms of individual rights and privacy, security, cybercrime, the flow of personal data, and access to information,” the report further noted. “As a result, our economies and societies will undergo fundamental transformations.”
The global firm pointed out that Latin America and the Caribbean continues to suffer from an important lag in adopting information and communications technologies more broadly, which is reflected in the rankings.
“No country manages to reach the top 30 and only a handful of small economies manage to be included among the top 50 — the exceptions are Barbados, Puerto Rico, Chile, and Uruguay,” the study pointed out.
While the region is culturally and economically different, the GITR listed three common denominators accountable for the lag: an insufficient investment in developing the information and communications technology infrastructure; a weak skill base in the population, the result of poor educational systems that hinder society’s capacity to make an effective use of these technologies; and unfavorable business conditions that do not support the spur of entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Addressing these weaknesses will be crucial for improving the region’s competitiveness and shifting its economies toward more knowledge-based activities,” the GITR said.
The ranking showed that while Puerto Rico is included among the world’s advanced economies, there is still work to be done on the government’s part to fuel the growth and use of technology.