Bahrain and Qatar have moved up the rankings in a global list of the world’s most IT-savvy countries, to become the highest placed in the Gulf region.
The countries displaced the UAE, which had previously held the top spot in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).
Adult literacy and high broadband costs were cited as areas in which the UAE needed to improve, according to an annual report by the World Economic Forum and the business school Insead.
The UAE now ranks as the world’s 30th most “network-ready” country, having slipped six places from last year, according to the Global Information Technology Report.
It was previously ranked top in the Mena region in terms of information and communication technology (ICT) readiness.
While the UAE ranked among the most advanced in terms of the Government’s commitment to technology, it performed less well in other areas.
“The Government is granting priority to ICT,” said Bruno Lanvin, the executive director of Insead’s eLab.
“What ranks less highly is the other elements. Education remains a challenge,” he said. “The UAE would benefit further from expanding the overall skill base available in the country, especially eradicating adult illiteracy … and increasing tertiary education participation.”
Another area for improvement is the country’s telecommunications market, where just two operators – Etisalat and du – are licensed to provide mainstream landline, mobile and broadband services.
“Liberalising the ICT and telecommunications markets … would help reduce the high costs of accessing the internet,” said Mr Lanvin.
Bahrain was highly placed in the Global Information Technology Report’s in terms of the investment environment and the Government’s use of technology.
The report examined the network readiness of 142 countries, to determine how ICT was being used to “drive economic productivity and social development”.
Sweden and Singapore topped the global list of most network-ready countries.
Gulf states performed well on a global level, with Bahrain ranked 27th, followed by Qatar at 28th, the UAE 30th, Saudi Arabia 34th and Oman 40th.
Mr Lanvin said there was a growing “digital divide” in technology.
“At the global level, the gap between the top 40 and the rest is increasing,” he said.
This year’s report used a different methodology from previous years, by taking account of mobile broadband subscriptions, but putting less emphasis on fixed-line telecoms use.