Zimbabwe tops Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka in ICT Opportunity, according to ITU

Posted on February 17, 2007  /  5 Comments

The ITU has just released Measuring the Information Society 2007: ICT Opportunity Index and World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators. This report includes the annual data on basic telecom indicators, which many rely on for research, writing and policy formulation. Contrary to the title, the data are from 2005, but still, this is one of the few sources of comprehensive data where all countries are represented.

This particular report also ranks countries by something called the ICT Opportunity Index. According to this ranking, Zimbabwe (Rank = 127) has greater ICT opportunities than Pakistan (139), India (133) and Sri Lanka (128).

Readers of this website are generally aware of the rapid growth of telecom in these three countries, and India is pretty much a brand name for ICT these days. How Zimbabwe, with one of the worst records of misgovernance in the world can do better than these three countries is a subject worthy of debate.

For the record, Zimbabwe was heading for 1500% inflation in January 2007 according to African sources, and its diplomats had not been paid for months. The telecom sector in Zimbabwe seems to be in crisis as well.

So, the question are, is the ITU’s ICT Opportunity Index flawed? If yes, how? If not, should Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka strive to emulate Zimbabwe’s monetary and telecom regulatory practices?


  1. The only significant difference between Zimbabwe and SL lie in the uptake index – which measures the following.

    computers per 100 inhabitants, Internet users per 100 inhabitants and proportion of households with a TV

    I find it difficult to believe that a country with 80% of their population below the poverty line can have such a significantly high uptake number. Perhaps it’s accurate, but I’d suggest otherwise. [https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/zi.html]

    Further, I wonder how the intensity index will be (positively) affected in Sri Lanka’s case after 2005 – SLT’s low cost ADSL was extended to heavily populated Colombo suburbs relatively recently.

    It would also be interesting to find out if outgoing call minutes in the intensity index include VOIP traffic. Many “communication centers” are cheap, found on every street corner and from what I can tell, widely used – all of them use their internet connectivity to provide very low cost international calls.

  2. Thank you for the analysis.

    This is old data from 2005, despite the report being labeled 2007 (against common practice; this should have been the 2006 report). If the ITU wanted, they could have easily waited for a few months and issued that rankings using 2006 data, not this DOA analysis.

    The funny thing is that Sri Lanka had been behind Zimbabwe from 2001 (the earliest year for the the Index rank is provided). The gap is narrowest in 2005, so it is possible that LK may have pulled ahead last year.

    But it is a fact that many countries report false data, which the ITU accepts unquestioningly. For example, there is the miraculous jump in Bhutan’s ICT Opportunity score from 21.43 in 2002 to 47.25 in 2003 (an increase in excess of 100% when other countries barely move by 3-5%). This is not justified or explained by the report’s authors. The use of government surveys with questionable methodologies could also be a cause.

  3. This is indeed a bizarre result, which I suspect reflects a number of factors:

    1. The unfortunate choice of indicators that make up the ICT Opportunity Index, which do not give a balanced view of the ICT Sector;

    2. The fact that certain countries, like Zimbabwe, sometimes provide erroneous data.

    3. The reality that Zimbabwe used to be one of the wealthier countries in the continent of Africa, and so still has a residual high score in certain indicators (like TV sets or international traffic) which are measured by the ICT Opportunity Index.

    It is a major task to sort out reliable data from unreliable data when dealing with so many countries, and mistakes do sometimes arise.

    For the record, the Digital Opportunity Index (DOI), published by ITU ranks Zimbabwe well below Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. In the preliminary numbers for the 2006 edition of the DOI (due to be published in May 2006) Zimbabwe is ranked 153rd (down 4 places) while Sri Lanka ranks 109th, India 118th and Pakistan 124th. I believe this is a more accurate representation. However, we are still working on data checking for the new release.

  4. Dont know when pak indo tension will stop, there relation was very good in last year, may be there are some person who dont want to say us happy and they are creating problems in our way, if you look at history everything is going fine they start local buses, business, exchanging other business and even sports, and now … ??

  5. Zimbabwe is the most educated African cointry and most Zimbabweans who have left the country compete neck to neck with Indians and Pakistanis for jobs in the US.

    So the fact that ZImbabwe has been misgoverned does NOT make it any less worthy technically.

    By the Zimbabwe started doing VoIP 10 years before Vonage was even formed.

    I was in charge of that project.