Lebanon came in 65th place on the ICT Development Index, moving three places forward compared to 2010. Among Arab states, it came in sixth place. The local ICT sector kept up very well with the region’s high-income countries with a score of 4.48, above the global average of 4.15. All other oil-importer Arab countries scored lower than this average. Fares Kobeissi, Chairman of the Association of Lebanese Software Industry (ALSI), said: “Even if 65th place is not that impressive, it is however a very good progress on which we can rely when dealing with regional investors, and selling our systems.”
“These results reveal that both private and public sector were cooperating positively, and that the sector is going in the right direction,” said Kobeissi.
The Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) has taken, during this year, a number of steps supporting ICT innovation, most significantly through launching the first digital district in Bachoura (BDD 1499). It also launched the first phase of fiber optics interlinking stations, which will be ready by April 2013, and the ‘fiber to home’ project set to be operational in 2015. Sources from the MoT said there are other plans to optimize DSL and broadband services to end users at lower fees.
Telephone and Internet penetration rates also improved, increasing by around ten percent over the past year. Around 72 percent of households have computers, and 62 percent have Internet access. With the India-Middle East-Western Europe (IMEWE) submarine cable going live in 2011, international bandwidth per user almost doubled, according to the report.
The ITU report placed Lebanon in 64th place on the ICT price basket, ahead of Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia. Lebanon is one of the top ten economies with greatest improvement in the ICT development over the 2010-2011 period, especially after the introduction of the 3G network in autumn 2011. The priority for developing ICT now is to bring broadband Internet to one million out of a total population of just over four million. The other objective, as per ITU, is to upgrade connection speed to private customers in densely-populated cities.
According to Kobeissi, developing the sector should now become easier, “especially that we have underlined our weaknesses.” Investment in technology, he said, is closely related to the country’s image: “The further we develop our software industry, which is a main pillar in the ICT business, the more we can increase our sales and attract more foreign investors.”