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MasterCard and Fletcher School ‘Digital Evolution Index’ Provides Roadmap of Countries Most Prepared to Support the Next Billion eCommerce Users

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There are currently 2.9 billion Internet users in the world. While a staggering number, businesses and governments have an opportunity to expand their reach by bringing the remaining 60 percent of the global population online. Successfully supporting those consumers will depend on knowing which countries are leading digital growth.

To enable businesses and governments to make sense of the evolving global digital landscape, reveal patterns and provide insights into current and future Internet users, MasterCard and The Fletcher School at Tufts University collaborated to create the Digital Evolution Index. According to the Index, Singapore, Sweden and Hong Kong occupy the top three spots on the list of countries prime to welcome the next billion Internet users thanks to their advanced, but still growing, digital economies. The United Kingdom and Switzerland round out the top five, while the United States ranks sixth among the 50 countries measured. China, Malaysia and Thailand ranked as the top three fastest moving digital economies, a result of their rapidly increasing Internet and smartphone population.

“The way people engage digitally is changing fast and we have to listen and watch to truly understand the opportunities and make them matter to people where they are,” said Ann Cairns, President, International Markets, MasterCard. “It is clear that innovation moves at different speeds around the world but the unifying opportunity ahead of us is how we harness engagement in the online and offline worlds, and build trust between the user, the service and the payment mechanism.”

The study identified four interdependent drivers – supply, demand, institutions and innovation – that define each country’s digital evolution and can serve as strategic evaluation points for future growth.

“There is very little about the digital past and present of the West that instructs us about the digital present and future of the Rest,” said lead researcher Bhaskar Chakravorti, Senior Associate Dean of International Business and Finance at The Fletcher School. “The momentum and direction of countries over time result from the interplay of these systemic elements. In the experience of the West the four drivers are more tightly connected. In the case in emerging markets – where the next billion e-consumers are – some of these drivers move much faster than others; the trajectory is non-linear and you could end up with surprises such as Alibaba in China or Flipkart in India or M-Pesa in Kenya. Specifically, understanding the institutions and innovations in these parts of the world is essential to knowing where the world’s digital evolution will pop next.”

While developed markets dominate the top spots, a different picture emerges when measuring the pace of digital adoption. The study analyzed each market’s evolution from 2008 to 2013 to understand country benchmarks, track progress and identify areas for improvement. Countries were grouped into four trajectory zones:

  • Break Out – These countries currently have low readiness scores, but are rapidly evolving. India, China, Brazil, Vietnam, and the Philippines are examples. If their evolution rates sustain, these countries will emerge as strong digital economies, but the Index shows that the next phase of growth may be harder to achieve.
  • Stall Out – While possessing a history of strong growth, these countries (most of Western and Northern Europe, Australia and Japan) have matured. Innovation and seeking markets beyond domestic borders will be critical to continuing growth.
  • Stand Out – These countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States, have and continue to maintain high levels of digital transactions, supported by cutting edge infrastructure and sophisticated domestic consumers. To remain Stand Out markets, these countries must continue to fast-track innovation.
  • Watch Out – These countries face challenges, but with a combined population of 2.5 billion people, they represent significant opportunities for investment. Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya are examples.

For additional detail, visit the Digital Evolution Index website and Digital Planet Report, which outline the factors and implications for each of the trajectory zones.

About the Digital Evolution Index

The Digital Evolution Index is an output of the study conducted by researchers at The Fletcher School with the support of MasterCard. Analyzing datasets from public sources, such as The World Bank, and private sources such as EMPEA and Dow Jones VentureSource, the research team created an analytical framework for recognizing patterns and making sense of the global digital landscape, discerning country trends and evaluating their relative strengths and weaknesses.

The methodology for the Digital Evolution Index measures the current ability of countries to deliver on consumer demand and business supply capabilities, in combination with governmental policy and climate for innovation – four drivers defining digital readiness that were identified in the research hypothesis. In addition to the current state, the study measured each country’s trajectory across the four drivers from 2008 through 2013. The index then layers a quadrant matrix to visualize the trajectory of a particular country.

About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

About Fletcher

The Fletcher School  at Tufts University (The Fletcher School)—the first exclusively graduate school of international affairs in the United States—has prepared the world’s leaders to tackle complex global challenges since 1933. The school’s alumni represent the highest levels of leadership in the world, including executive leadership of some of the world’s largest corporations; hundreds of sitting ambassadors; respected voices from distinguished media outlets; heads of global nonprofit organizations; and leaders of international peacekeeping and security initiatives. The Fletcher School offers a collaborative, flexible and interdisciplinary approach to the study of international affairs, featuring a distinguished faculty and diverse student body representing more than half the world’s countries. The Institute for Business in the Global Context is the hub at Fletcher that focuses on the intersection of business and international affairs. Follow Fletcher’s insights on global digital trends on Twitter ‪@Fletcher_eBiz‪


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