Brazil, positioned #65 benefits from a strong level of business ICT usage (33rd). This factor combined with fairly advanced levels of technological capacity (31st) allows the country to achieve one of the strongest performances of ICT enabled innovations in Latin America, both in terms of new products and services (29th) and more efficient processes (34th). However its overall business environment with its burdensome procedures to create new businesses (138th), high tax rates (130th), high mobile cellular tariffs (133rd) and poor skill availability (86th) hinder the potential of the Brazilian economy to fully benefit from ICT and shift toward more knowledge-based activities (76th) at a faster pace.
Connected BrazilRussian Federation
In Brazil, the telecommunications sector government agencies have a long-standing and active engagement with industry, utilizing mechanisms such as public consultations and keeping an on-going dialogue on key issues. Some of the objectives of Brazil’s National Broadband Program (PNBL), Connected Brazil, are to create opportunities, speed up economic and social development, promote social inclusion, reduce social and regional differences, and promote job creation and capacity building for the population to use information technologies. The Connected Brazil Forum is composed of almost 60 institutions from diverse sectors, public and private, and directly linked with broadband program goals. Mobile communications will play a pivotal role in fulfilling PNBL’s theme of a “fast Internet for all of Brazil” and aid in accelerating mobile broadband access and adoption, increasing local applications development, and decreasing device and service costs.
At #56 the Russian Federation is one of the best performers amongst the CIS countries. It counts on affordable access to an ICT infrastructure that is superior to its neigbours. However, the vision and commitment of the government to boost ICT as a driver of economic growth is lacking, and the innovation system, which underwent deep restructuring after the collapse of Communism, has not yet been fully reorganized or redeveloped. The Russian Federation still maintains pockets of scientific excellence, but unfortunately they do not seem to spill over into the productive sector. This, coupled with a weak political and regulatory environment and a somewhat entrepreneurship and innovation averse environment affect its capacity to reap the full economic benefits associated with higher rates of technology development.
Moving forward, in addition to continuing to upgrade and develop their ICT infrastructure, the Russian Federation should improve the quality of the educational systems and build effective innovation systems with the active participation of the private sector. Improvements in these three areas should go hand in hand with more and stronger economic impacts associated with higher rates of innovation and the development of more knowledge-intensive activities.
INDIA India at #69 delivers a very mixed performance, with encouraging results in a few areas and a lot of room for improvement elsewhere, notably in the political and regulatory environment (71st) and the business and innovation environment (91st).
Extensive red tape stands in the way of businesses and corporate tax is among the highest of all analyzed countries. For instance, it typically takes four years and 46 procedures to enforce a contract. Starting a business is longer and requires more paperwork than in most countries.
Other variables in the environment subindex are better assessed, including the availability of new technologies (47th), the availability of venture capital (27th), the intensity of local competition (31st), and the quality of management schools (30th).
One of the weakest aspects of India’s performance lies in its low penetration of ICT. The country ranks 117th in the individual usage pillar. There are 61 mobile subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants—a relatively low figure. A mere 7.5 percent of the population uses the Internet. Six percent of households own a PC and broadband Internet remains the privilege of a few, with less than one subscription per 100 inhabitants. Fierce competition and innovations for the “bottom of the pyramid” have made India the leader in the affordability pillar, thus providing a significant boost to the country’s readiness. Although penetration is still limited among the population at large, businesses are early and assiduous adopters of new technologies (47th).
The government is placing a great deal of emphasis on ICT as a way to address some of the country’s most pressing issues, including job creation, corruption and red tape, and education. Whether this vision will translate into a transformation of the economy and society remains to be seen. But already ICT is having a small transformational impact on the economy, which is partly reflected in India’s performance in the economic impacts pillar (41st).
At #51 China leads the BRICS, the group of large emerging economies. Yet this should offer little consolation in light of the important challenges ahead that must be met to more fully adopt and leverage ICT.
China’s institutional framework (46th) and especially its business environment (105th) present a number of shortcomings that stifle entrepreneurship and innovation, including excessive red tape and long administrative procedures, lofty taxation amounting to 64 percent of profits (124th), uncertain intellectual property protection—it is estimated that almost 80 percent of installed software in China is pirated—and limited or delayed availability of new technologies (100th).
In terms of readiness, the country ranks a low 87th in the infrastructure and digital content pillar, mainly because of its underdeveloped Internet infrastructure. China gets high marks in the cost measures (42nd, with a score of 5.7) and to some extent in the education-related variables. Looking at actual ICT usage, figures remain quite low in absolute terms but should be considered in light of the sheer size of the country. ICT usage by businesses is significant (37th). China is becoming more and more innovative and this in turn encourages further and quicker adoption of technologies. The government is placing great hopes in ICT as a catalyst for future growth, because more traditional sources of growth will dry up. The efforts of the government in promoting and using ICT are reflected in China’s good showing in the government usage pillar (33rd). For the time being, the impact of ICT on the economy remains limited (79th in the economic impacts pillar).
Mobile broadband and healthcare: Detecting cardiovascular diseases in China
According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) place a grave economic burden on countries. In fact, China will lose US$558 billion between 2005 and 2015 in national income as a result of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
CVD is the leading cause of death in China, claiming about 3 million lives a year. A pilot project involving Life Care Networks and the Community Health Association of China uses mobile broadband technologies to address the prevention and care of CVDs in underserved communities.
China’s Wireless Heart Health project is deploying a 3G-enabled cardiovascular screening and monitoring system among resource-scarce community health clinics. The system includes smartphones with built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors. The smartphones send patient heart data to cardiac specialists at a 24-hour call center in Beijing. As part of the service, doctors can provide real- time feedback to their patients via text or phone call.
This project demonstrates how 3G mobile broadband can extend the reach of specialized physicians into under-served areas and enable community health clinics to treat more patients effectively.