A Telefonica report measuring digital development in 34 countries said its findings “challenge preconceptions that the world’s wealthiest countries exhibit the best digital prowess”.
The report, published today, claims to be the most comprehensive digital index ever developed, and measures a country’s digital life by taking into account the ease of information flow within a particular economy, confidence in how users engage and trust the digital world, and how economic activities prosper in that environment.
The index is designed to challenge the current way the digital economy is measured, with “digital infrastructure alone rendered ineffective if a country lacks the capacity to leverage it for economic and societal development”.
Its findings show that while the US tops the index, it is Latin American countries which show great progress in relation to their economic performance, in particular, Colombia, which ranks 14th, Chile, which ranks 11th and Mexico in 16th.
The index noted that while scores correlate strongly with the country’s wealth, reflecting greater resources of richer countries, the correlation is not automatic.
Some countries therefore are above the trend line, such as Colombia and UK (which ranks 4th) and can be said to be over performing.
Countries like Saudi Arabia and Italy, meanwhile, are ranked below the trend, which means they “may not be harnessing their resources as efficiently as they probably could and should embrace digital life”.
Notably Saudi Arabia ranks just ahead of Colombia in 13th, despite having almost three times the GDP per capita.
The world’s largest countries, China and India, rank 24th and 28th respectively.
Regulation needs to change
Meanwhile, only eight countries over performed or matched their GDP predicted performance for all sub-indices in terms of policy implementation, including the UK, Colombia, Canada, the US, Mexico, Chile, Australia and South Africa, with the remaining countries encountering both strengths and challenges in “varying degrees”.
The index suggests that bottlenecks exist in the global landscape, obstructing certain countries’ “ability to achieve a successful digital ecosystem on behalf of its citizens”.
“Current regulation has to change in order for countries to maximise the digital opportunity,” said Jose Marie Alvarez-Pallete Lopez, executive chairman of Telefonica.
“To unleash the full potential of the digital economy, we need forward thinking, fairer public policies and better cooperation between all stakeholders, public and private. Without this, we risk a digital divide, which could not only threaten economic progress, but also the lives of citizens globally.”