Bahrain has leapfrogged the UAE and Qatar to be ranked the Middle East's most IT-friendly country in a global list published by the World Economic Forum.
The Global Information Technology Report 2012 ranked 142 economies by examining the correlation between ICT readiness and economic growth.
In the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), Bahrain was ranked 27th globally and first in the Middle East and North Africa region, up three places on the previous year.
The UAE, which was the best ranked last year, fell six places to 30th, while Qatar was the second best ranked country in the region at 28th.
Saudi Arabia fell one place to 33rd while Oman rose one place to 40th with Kuwait lagging behind in 62nd place, although that did represent an improvement of 13 places compared to the previous year's list.
Sweden and Singapore topped the rankings in this year’s report while Switzerland (5th), the Netherlands (6th), the United States (8th), Canada (9th) and the United Kingdom (10th) also showed strong performances in the top 10.
However, ICT readiness in sub-Saharan Africa was still low, with most countries showing significant lags in connectivity due to insufficient development of ICT infrastructure, which remains too costly, and displaying poor skill levels that do not allow for an efficient use of the available technology.
Even in those countries where ICT infrastructure has been improved, ICT-driven impacts on competitiveness and well-being trail behind, resulting in a new digital divide.
Despite improvements in many drivers of competitiveness, the BRICS countries – led by China (51st) – still face important challenges to more fully adopt and leverage ICT, the report said.
“Hyperconnectivity is redefining relationships between individuals, consumers and enterprises, citizens and state, and we are beginning to see fundamental transformations in all areas of the economy and society,” said Robert Greenhill, chief business officer, World Economic Forum.
“Traditional organisations and industry infrastructures are facing challenges as industries converge. This will inevitably have consequences for policy and regulation as regulators will have to mediate the blurring lines between sectors and industries and will be obligated to oversee more facets in a pervasive way,” he added.
The report is the result of a long-standing partnership between the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, a leading international business school.