The 2009 e-readiness rankings
Type of work: White Paper
- The scores of all but nine of the 70 countries in the study decline in 2009
- Denmark—one of the nine—recaptures the top rank in the world e-readiness table
- New indicators reveal that information and communications technology (ICT) use seriously lags its availability in many countries
A sharp deterioration in business environments owing to the economic crisis has taken a toll on countries’ e-readiness—their ability to harness ICT for social and economic development. The Economist Intelligence Unit maintains that a stable and transparent business environment is essential to fostering development and utilisation of digital technologies and services. Over the past year, however, the crisis has constricted availability of credit, led governments to entertain protectionist measures—including in the technology sector—and dampened foreign investment and support for private enterprise. All 70 countries in the e-readiness rankings have seen their business environment scores drop in 2009—an important reason why all but nine countries registered lower overall e-readiness scores this year compared with 2008.
Scores also fell, however, because this year’s rankings now cover ICT usage in addition to availability. The availability of technology is not enough to deliver the full socioeconomic benefit to countries that ICT can provide. For this, digital technologies must be used, and used effectively. Tracking actual ICT use is a tricky endeavour, but we have introduced several new indicators this year which compare countries on the extent to which their businesses and individuals use online channels. Since technology usage tends to lag availability, countries’ e-readiness scores have declined further.
These and other factors have also led to changes in the rankings table. Denmark has reclaimed global e-readiness leadership, a position it relinquished to the US last year. Other north European countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway—having, among other attributes, high levels of ICT usage—have reaffirmed their places among the top ten e-readiness countries or, in the case of Norway, advanced into this tier. Meanwhile, the US and UK, whose business environments have been hit particularly hard in the past year, have fallen a few rungs.
"The results of this year’s research underscore the fact that digital development does not take place in a vacuum," says Robin Bew, Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit. "Tough economic conditions can constrain the drivers of technology adoption and use. Policymakers can help maintain the momentum of digital advancement, but above all they should refrain from introducing protectionist measures, which will only make matters worse."Since 2000, the Economist Intelligence Unit has published an annual e-readiness ranking of the world’s largest economies, using a model developed in co-operation 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.
Other major findings from this year’s study are highlighted below:
- Emerging markets continue to rack up big advances in connectivity, or the extent to which people are connected to communications networks. Progress in the "connectivity and technology infrastructure" category of indicators is particularly notable in the Middle East and Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. But there remains a large gap between these and mature markets, which may have a negative knock-on effect on the usage scores of less well-connected countries.
- Government ICT strategy in emerging markets is bearing fruit. Most nations are making progress in implementing e-government programmes; a few developing countries keep pace and even outperform the e-readiness leaders in some areas. The governments of Mexico, Jordan and Vietnam, for example, have made substantial progress in recent years in making digital channels available to citizens for information provision and consultation ("e-participation").
- ICT development may benefit from the recession. Many countries’ economic stimulus packages designed to hasten recovery—notably in rich-world countries hardest hit by recession, such as the US—have big ICT infrastructure projects wrapped up in them. But generally, all new stimulus-driven infrastructure spending, including on railways, power plants and other projects—incorporates a lot of ICT.
- Policy concerns exist on the near and longer horizons. Protectionism risks are growing in the global economy, and measures are afoot in some countries— China, for example—to increase protection of local ICT industries. Some stimulus programmes may also have a protectionist sting in their tail. Policymakers remain concerned that ICT providers are not doing enough to ensure the privacy and integrity of customer data. Finally, there is mounting concern about the environmental impact of digital devices and networks.