Asian Countries Advance in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2007 E-Readiness Rankings, as the Goalposts of Digital Leadership Shift
LONDON - E-readiness continues to improve around the world in 2007, but achieving it is becoming more complex. To reflect this, the Economist Intelligence Unit has “raised the bar” of e-readiness by modifying its ranking methodology. This change in methodology, along with underlying improvements in individual countries, has led to changes in the league table. Several countries, particularly in Asia, have seen their positions improve, while others have experienced (mostly slight) declines. At the same time, the fundamental tenets of e-readiness remain unchanged, and the leaders in 2006 are still leaders today -- nine of last year’s top ten countries remain in that bracket.
Denmark and the US retain their number one and two spots in the rankings (with Sweden also tied for 2nd), but Hong Kong (4th), Singapore (6th), South Korea (16th), Taiwan (17th) and Japan (18th) have experienced a boost in 2007 in both scores and ranks. This is due in no small part to their governments’ vision and commitment in pushing digital development, and to continued progress in adoption of broadband and other advanced infrastructure.
Several top-tier countries, meanwhile, experienced a shift in their overall e-readiness performance as a result of the methodology changes. This is mainly due to a sharpened focus on the policy environment and e-government, as well as education and innovation. Among the countries affected were Switzerland (5th), Canada (13th), Germany (19th) and Ireland (21st). Their e-readiness has not declined, but the model refinements have uncovered areas where they and other countries need to improve to maintain progress.
“Technology leadership in the world is becoming a fast-moving target,” observes Robin Bew, Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Those at the top of today’s league table cannot be complacent -- changing technologies, and attitudes to technology usage, mean that hard-won advantages can be quickly eroded by nimble-footed rivals.”
Since 2000, the Economist Intelligence Unit has published an annual e-readiness ranking of the world’s largest economies, using a model developed together with the IBM Institute for Business Value. A country’s “e-readiness” is a measure of its e-business environment, a collection of factors that indicate how amenable a market is to Internet-based opportunities. Increasingly, it is also about how individuals and businesses consume digital goods and services.
“The role of governments in laying the structural and policy groundwork for an Internet-ready economy is essential today as business and society adapt to ongoing globalisation,” says George Pohle, Global Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value. “This groundwork, as reflected in this year’s rankings, provides a critical path for individuals and businesses to apply these new digital channels in innovative applications -- spurring further economic development.”
Other highlights of the 2007 rankings include the following:
E-readiness goalposts for countries are shifting. Internet connections, for example, must not only be available, they should be fast, secure and affordable if people are to use the Web efficiently. And while it is important for governments to push high-speed Internet use through sound policy, actually delivering services through electronic channels provides an indicator of policy success, as does the consumption of other online goods and services by consumers and businesses. Accordingly, the Economist Intelligence Unit has introduced new ranking criteria in 2007 and modified or re-weighted others. The changes have particularly affected the assessment of countries’ digital infrastructure, the legal and policy environment surrounding its use, and how individuals and businesses consume digital services.
The digital divide continues to narrow, even with the model changes. Notwithstanding the decline of some countries’ scores, the world’s overall e-readiness is improving perceptibly: a global average score of 6.02 in 2006 rose to 6.24 this year. And the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” is decreasing: the distance between the highest and lowest scoring countries dropped from 6.08 points to 5.80 points this year. The score differentials between the top, middle and lower tiers also continue to decline.
Broadband is increasingly affordable, and almost everywhere. One factor in the narrowing divide is the absence of a large gap between developed and developing markets in broadband affordability, one of the new indicators we have introduced in 2007. The lowest speed of DSL service available in west European and North American markets costs households 1% or less of median monthly income. In other regions, broadband affordability levels are not substantially lower (between 3% and 10% of household income). The expanding global use of mobile devices and applications, meanwhile, continues to provide a technology “leveller” of sorts between developing and developed countries.
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