South Africa is ranked 56th out of 79 countries in the latest Huawei Global Connectivity Index 2020 report.

Despite an all-round challenging year, the country improved in the development of the AI and IOT technology enablers. Broadband and Cloud, however, showed no movement in the overall scoring.

In Huawei’s seventh annual GCI report, the publication for the first time proposed five key stages of industry digital transformation.

A key finding of GCI 2020 is that the digital transformation of industries helps countries boost productivity, spur economic recovery, and enhances competitiveness. The GCI research suggests that economies that go digital with intelligent connectivity and increase productivity generally enjoy higher gross value added (GVA) per worker or per hour worked.

South Africa’s 56th ranking places the country towards the bottom end of the 37 Adopter nations, below Vietnam, but above Peru – both new graduates to the Adopter category.

Technology Enablers refer to digital infrastructure and methodologies that provide the foundation for digital transformation allowing countries to take giant leaps in performance, production efficiency, competitiveness and innovation.

In terms of the four Technology Enablers identified by the report, South Africa showed slight improvements in AI with the score increasing by 3 points from 21 points in 2019. Similarly, a 3 point improvement was noted in IoT from 24 points in 2019.

Broadband and Cloud showed no movement from the ratings of the previous year. Broadband held firm at 36 points in the 2020 assessment against an average for all countries of 62 points. Cloud scored 48 points in the 2020 report against an average of 42 points.

The four pillars encompass the entire value chain of ICT development and digital transformation to provide a 360-degree view of the digital economy. Each pillar has a set of 10 data indicators measuring the supply of digital services and products, demand for these services and products, end-user experiences thereof and the potential for the future development of the digital economy.

In the 2020 report, South Africa showed an improvement in the Potential pillar with the score improving by 4 points to 42. However, the supply of ICT products and services, demand for connectivity and connectivity experience of end-users and organisations showed no movement from the previous year.

The pandemic of 2020 showed how invaluable Broadband has become for households to remain connected to access to high-speed Internet services for remote working, distance learning, entertainment, accessing potentially lifesaving information and more. Broadband cannot be restricted according to geography, income levels or levels of education etc.

Since 2015, the report has published comparative analyses of countries by GCI score. The average scores of Frontrunner, Adopter, and Starter economies have all increased since 2015, with Starters showing the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) followed by Adopters and then Frontrunners. This suggests that Starters are narrowing the digital gaps with Adopters and Frontrunners.

As an Adopter country, SA must determine how it can leverage opportunities in the current environment, to close gaps in those areas where little or no improvements were noted.

“As ICT permeates industries, digital transformation has become unanimously agreed on among countries and industries,” said Chen Li, Marketing and Solutions Director, South Africa. “For the first time, we extended our research from countries to industries. We also suggested digital transformation paths for countries and enterprises in different stages to build future-oriented economic resilience.”

The GCI 2020 report suggests that a country’s ICT strategy should be built around its sectoral strengths. Regardless of the industry, more digitalisation adds more value.
Stage 1: Task efficiency Focus is placed on tracking the completion of individual tasks through basic connectivity and more efficient communication.

Stage 2: Function efficiency Computerised or automated functions enabled by ICT make it possible to handle multiple tasks simultaneously and share information more efficiently.

Stage 3: System efficiency More focus is put on the digitisation of the core system functions for efficient operations. Enterprises in this stage will have a stronger demand for connectivity and cloud services.

Stage 4: Organisational efficiency and agility Enterprise processes are digitalised, enterprise applications are migrated to the Cloud, and all systems are effectively integrated. High-coverage networks, wide adoption of cloud-based applications, and AI and IoT deployment also contribute to real-time data analysis and insights.

Stage 5: Ecosystem efficiency and resilience The entire ecosystem is digitalised, able to quickly respond to market changes, and can support automatic coordination and cross-sector collaboration by stakeholders. 5G, IoT, and robotics technologies present opportunities for new business models, working methods and products.

GCI reports aim to give policymakers and economic stakeholders valuable insights to help them speed up growth in the digital economy. The 79 countries evaluated by GCI 2020 represent 95% of the world’s GDP and 84% of the global population.

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