Thursday, May 27, 2010


Brunei came 63rd in the Network Readiness Index (NRI) 2009-2010. But what does it mean?

NRI measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology. Propensity, to those who does not have access to any dictionary, means simply ‘tendency’ or ‘inclination’. It is part of the Global Information Technology Report published by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, an internationally renowned graduate business school and research institution. The full report can be read here.

The NRI is a composite of three components: the environment for ICT offered by a given country or community, the readiness of the community’s key stakeholders (individuals, businesses, and governments) to use ICT, and finally the usage of ICT amongst these stakeholders. It covers 133 economies from both the developed and developing world accounting for 98% percent of world’s GDP.
Sweden with a score of 5.65 is the Numero Uno, the most networked economy in the world. Our neighbour, Singapore with a score of 5.64 came a close second. Brunei’s score is 3.77. Among the high-income countries, Brunei is ranked 44th out of 46 economies. At least we are better than Kuwait and Trinidad and Tobago. Among the notable countries that are above us are Vietnam, Thailand, Tunisia and India. Just below us is Azerbaijan.
Let’s dig deeper into the report. Assuming being ranked in the top 40 as doing well, the report indicates Brunei has a good ICT infrastructure especially with very strong support from the Government. Our education system is ranked highly especially in the quality of maths and science education. We also have an ICT friendly taxation and legal framework.
Surprise, surprise, we are outside the top 100, infact ranked 127 out of 133 on the time required to start business and ranked 128 in the number of procedures to start a business. Sounds familiar! Remember what was reported in the Ease of Doing Business Index? May be there is a miscommunication on this. As I recalled, in the Ease of Doing Business Index published by the World Bank, we got the very low ranked due to the part left unanswered by the survey respondent.

Other areas where Brunei can improve are the need to have more competition and in the creative and technology exports sector. May be somebody has looked into this. I do hope the incubates at the iCentre can rise to this challenge.

One other area we did not score well is ‘buyer sophistication’. Are they serious? I thought we Bruneians are quite up to date with the technology and we are crazy just about everything ‘the latest’. Look at how fast we change our high tech gadgets, our mobile phones, our laptops, our computers, our TVs and many more. Even the products not launched in other parts of the world will reach us in just few days. How can they say we are not sophisticated? May be our inclination to buy ‘grade A’ copies aka pirated / not original alternatives had a say in this. May be….

In another ranking done by, Brunei is ranked 146 out of 178 countries in terms of download speed. At an average 0.91Mb/s, we are the tortoise compared to the top ranked South Korea at 33.97 Mb/s. In ASEAN, only Cambodia is ranked lower. Singapore is ranked 31st at 8.47 Mb/s. Even Rwanda at 3.74 MB/s and Mozambique at 1.96 Mb/s have faster download speeds. Hopefully the new Brunei International Gateway project through the Asia-America Gateway due to be completed in 2011 will help us move higher up the speed league. May be we can sit next to the Maldives in the top 50 ……

To summarise, as the familiar phrase written in the school kid report books, 'Well done but there is a lot of room for improvement'.

How do you measure success of the awareness campaign on fuel subsidy? It is not easy and results definitely will come overnight. May be the results can be seen in the coming months or years in terms of fuel consumptions. Any significant drop may point towards a more efficient usage of fuel and more people moving towards ‘green’ lifestyle.

But the TV news seemed to think the massive drop in fuel sales, 85% if I heard correctly, meant the campaign was a success. How can that be? Isn’t it obvious people will not buy petrol on that day? Isn’t it obvious people rather wait till the next day to fill up their tanks the day after? It must be obvious that the sales figure would drop massively when price are double or even tripled in the case of diesel. The drop only points to the fact that Brunei population is a ‘savvy’ and knowledgeable group. They are quite aware to the rise and fall of their daily necessities.

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