Singapore has overtaken Finland to become the world’s most efficient user of digital technology, according to the latest World Economic Forum NRI (Connectivity Readiness Index). However, it is the European nations that dominate the top of the ranking, occupying seven of the top ten positions this year. Singapore is the only Asian country after the weak performance of Hong Kong or South Korea.
The NRI is part of the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Information Technology Report and scores nations based on four factors on their readiness to exploit new digital technologies: 1) The business and legislative environment, 2) Infrastructure, affordability and capabilities, 3) Use by businesses, individuals and government, and 4) Social and economic impact.
Below are the 10 leading economies in digital technology:
The city-state government is leading the digital revolution with one of the world’s best ranges of online services and e-participation tools, and is second only to the UAE in the impact of information technology on government efficiency. Singapore offers the most conducive environment for innovation and business from around the world while its readiness is outstanding thanks to a highly skilled workforce (second only to Finland) and infrastructure. With such a fertile ground, it is not surprising that digital is so widespread: Singapore can boast the highest per capita mobile broadband penetration in the world. However, Internet take-up is surprisingly low: only three-quarters of the population uses it regularly, far below the leading countries of Iceland, Norway and Sweden. This relatively slow take-up does not prevent more than half of the population from being employed in knowledge-intensive jobs (second only to Luxembourg).
After two years leading all the indices, Finland falls to second place but continues to show a first-rate performance in many aspects of connectivity readiness. The country is the best in the world in terms of capacity and has an excellent business and political environment and infrastructure. All of this, together with affordable access, allows for extensive use by the population and businesses. The government is rethinking ways to promote the digital industry and it is hoped that such efforts will stop the decline in Finland’s performance in the provision of online government services and e-participation that has caused the country to lose its leading position.
Sweden maintains its third consecutive position. The country shows a strong and widespread performance. Its political and business environment continues to be one of the best in the world despite its slight decline. Sweden’s disposition is outstanding, with excellent infrastructure, affordable access and a highly skilled population. The use of information technology is widespread among businesses and the general population (in 2013, 95% of the population used the Internet on a regular basis). This activity has a great impact on the economy and society.
The Netherlands scores high on the policy and legislative framework, the business and innovative environment, and for infrastructure and capacity. However, affordability remains a challenge, as the country ranks 72nd in the world. The direct consequence is a low number of mobile broadband connections. Individual use is in any case extensive: the country is third in terms of access to PCs and broadband. The Netherlands enjoys one of the highest levels of B2B and B2C Internet use and the Dutch government continues to rank first in access to online government services, enabling citizens to participate electronically on a scale that makes it a world leader.
Norway, third among the Nordic countries, has the best digital infrastructure in the world and Norwegians are only behind Icelanders in Internet access (95%). Norway also scores high on measures of the impact of digital technology, where they score third in the world on adaptability in the work environment and use in the country’s education system to improve learning outcomes. Almost half of the country’s workers are employed in knowledge-intensive jobs and Norway is sixth in the effective use of digital tools to improve access to basic services.
Excellent institutions, pro-business legislation, first-rate infrastructure and a highly educated workforce (the third best in the world) provide the right ingredients for widespread adoption and impact. Swiss companies are at the forefront of use in businesses, including those in major industrial sectors such as industrial equipment, electronics, pharmaceuticals, watches and banking, which are using information technology to improve production processes, productivity and quality, as well as to preserve their innovative capacity and maintain their position at the top of the value chain. It should be noted that Switzerland has the highest number of fixed broadband Internet connections per capita in the world. All these factors combine to create a virtuous circle that makes Switzerland one of the world’s most prolific engines of innovation and a truly knowledge-based economy. More than 50% of its population is employed in knowledge-intensive jobs (third behind Luxembourg and Singapore). However, in stark contrast to these results, the government does not seem to be embracing digital as passionately as it appears and is at the bottom of the ranking of advanced economies for online government services.
7. United States
The United States scores high on virtually every dimension of the Index except affordability, where it ranks 53rd, and overall population capabilities (at 33rd), particularly in math and science (at 51st). In contrast, ICT infrastructure remains one of the best in the world (fourth). The use of information technology is high among all parties, which translates into a great impact on the economy and society. In all industries and sectors, American companies make use of digital to create new opportunities and businesses and the United States continues to be the best example of a large and advanced economy that makes the right investments to take full advantage of information technology.
8. United Kingdom
The country boasts one of the most conducive environments in the world for the development of information technology. The first-rate infrastructure, good affordability and high level of preparation of the population further contribute to the creation of such an ecosystem. Individual use has improved in recent years and is now fourth in the world. The United Kingdom has one of the highest penetration rates of mobile and fixed broadband Internet access, and its companies are leaders in both B2B (third party) and B2C, where the country is a world leader. Being at the forefront of connectivity readiness is particularly important for a services-based economy like the UK’s, where nearly half of the workforce is employed in knowledge-intensive jobs and information technology has a wide impact on society in general, particularly in terms of e-participation, where the country is fourth.