Notes from the course Network Society: Social Changes, Organizations and Citizens, Barcelona, 15-17 October, 2008.
State of development of the Networked Society
Irene Mia, World Economic Forum
The Global Competitiveness Report
A network of experts that reports the state of the economy in most countries of the World (covering circa 98% of the World’s GDP). The network works also on tourism, technology, private investment, etc.
The main goal is seeing why, given different countries with very different frameworks and socioeconomic backgrounds, why some of them behave similarly. It seems that there is a high correlation between competitiveness and e-readiness: ICTs are a general purpose technology that impacts all levels, thus why its relationship with competitiveness.
The Global Information Technology Report and the Networked Readiness Index
To see how countries can benefit from ICTs, how ready are they to enter the Information Society. To do so:
- A proper environment: business environment, government environment, individual environment
- A joint action between all the social actors to work together and share a common vision towards the Information Society
- Readiness, to make usage possible.
A composed index of three subindices:
- Environment: Market, Political/Regulatory, Infrastructure
- Readiness: Individual, Business, Government
- Usage: Individual, Business, Government
Data come from two different kind of sources: hard data, coming from national statistics; soft data, coming from experts that note down their perceptions. There is criticism on this last kind of data, dubbed as subjective; but perceptions, in the Economy, do play an important role, so despite the bias that might arise, it is also a way to gather all subjectiveness from a country’s reality.
Denmark — and other Scandinavian countries — are normally on top of the rankings. They are countries that are very innovative, competitive and wide open to international trade and a way of understanding the World as a global arena. On the other hand, some small Asia-Pacific countries have transformed their economies from having poor natural resources to be able to export hi-tech products and services. Last, some Arabic countries are also quickly scaling up the rankings, the reason being the diversification of their economies beyond oil.
Evidence shows that when there is an acknowledged strategy and philosophy to foster the Information Society (especially between businesses and governments), results are much better at achieving higher e-development goals.
The role of Governments in e-Readiness
The level of government readiness and usage is crucial, as it is a vector that dynamizes the introduction of new technology, the supply of services, the activation of the demand for those digital services, etc.
The case of Estonia
The shift from a planned (soviet) economy towards an open market one.
A huge effort was made to make government more efficient and to provide an appropriate environment so that the digital economy could develop: high usage, computers and Internet at home and at school, high level of e-government, etc.
- Leadership from the top
- Holistic national ICT Policy
- An inclusive information society
- Public-private partnerships
The case of Israel
Strong bet on software and exporting software — coming from a traditional economy based on exports of citrus.
How to create the appropriate environment? The government acted as an “ICT powerhouse”: investment in infrastructures, in R&D, in capacity and skills, in enterprise-university partnerships, firm incubators and venture capital, etc. Even this government “intervention”, it was always seen as “market friendly” and contributing to its dynamization without crowding it out.
The case of Taiwan
Incredible economic development based on hi-tech exports, with a highest share of ICT products worldwide.
Again, the strong role of the government and its vision and leadership. An emphasis on education, high quality training; innovation and investment, fostered through incubation programmes and parks.
Other countries that had high positive changes in their Networked Readiness Raking were China, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Lithuania, Romania, the Russian Federation, Ukraine or Vietnam. Reasons for success being similar to the ones afore mentioned, including many important changes in education too. On the other hand, Africa or the Western Hemisphere showed poor change, normally due not (only) to lack of infrastructures, but to more fundamental reasons like being able to make change happen, the educational and socioeconomic framework, etc.
Q: What does it take to shift one point upwards in the index/rankings? A: We don’t know, because the problem is that each country’s reality is too complex to draw a single model.
Q: In the case of Spain, how will it impact the law of access to the e-Administration or the electronic ID? How ambitious is the year 2010 deadline? A: It surely would, but it will not be in the short run. On the other hand, rankings are comparative, so it not only depends on your own performance but on your neighbours’. Of course, accomplishing deadlines also depend on the complexity of specific countries, so it is difficult to tell.
Q: Why e-readiness and usage measured apart? How it is that usage can be higher than readiness? A: Usage is more about e-government (public services, content, etc.), e-readiness more about strategy and policies.
Q: Are there rankings amongst countries with similar populations? Where’s France? Are there any countries going backwards? A: There are no rankings amongst similar populations, but it does make sense as implementation quite often depends on the total population (both positively and negatively).
Q: Is there any repository of best practices? A: The World Economic Forum publishes their case studies — based on successful practices —, as do some other organizations, but normally not as repositories but within reports, etc.
Q: Andalousia (southern Spain) has implemented telecenters and put computers+Internet in the classroom… but it looks like teachers are not ready to (efficiently) use them in teaching. Have other countries (e.g. Denmark) found the way to (efficiently) promote the use of ICTs in education? A: More than ICT policies, it is about education policies. Finland, for instance, invested highly in teachers and their skills (but also in wages). [see also “more info” below]
Q: Why is the civil society scared of the government having an important intervention? A: Public intervention is a need, and it should be better explained why, but there also is a need to protect the individuals in front of some violations of rights like privacy, security, freedom of expression, etc.
Q: What’s the role of web 2.0 apps in e-Readiness? A: It is especially about the role of the citizenry, the relationship of individuals with organizations, etc. And it will have a positive impact on usage, availability of information, etc.
Q: Intellectual property rights… are a barrier or a protection? A: It surely is a double-edged instrument, and there are reasons to and against having IP rights, and there is no clear positioning about them. What it is clear, is that governments should have a criterion about it and act according to it, coherently and consistently.
Demand or supply policies, push or pull strategies? A: In the case of developed countries (e.g. Spain) that already have some amount of infrastructures and skills, most probably the bet should be on demand-based policies and pull strategies to put the user actively in the equation.