In April, the World Economic Forum released its 13th Annual Global Information Technology Report, which highlights the ranking and evolution of countries’ “Network Readiness”. Congratulations to Finland and Singapore who hold their first and second positions respectively. Well done to the US, who moved up to 7th from 9th last year. And a special round of applause goes to Spain, where I live, which leapt from 38th (ahem) to 34th, well done, Spain! But wait a minute… 34th????
So let’s go into some detail: what is Network Readiness, and how is it measured? Network Readiness is a measure of how much a country uses communication infrastructure (Internet, smartphones, etc.) to promote economic growth and the well-being of its citizens.
To rank each nation, the World Economic Forum team looks at 54 different indicators. These include measurable statistics such as the percentage of Internet users or the average number of days necessary to start a business, as well as qualitative criteria, such as the quality of math and science education in each country.
“Portugal and Spain, at 33rd and 34th position respectively, present fairly stable profiles. As in past editions, both countries have managed to develop good ICT infrastructures (36th and 32nd, respectively) and ICT uptake has permeated among their populations, particularly in Spain where almost three-quarters are Internet users (34th). In addition, both governments have made significant attempts to increase the number of services they offer online. Despite these efforts, both countries continue to struggle to fully leverage ICTs to boost innovation (42nd and 57th, respectively), and weaknesses in their innovation ecosystems persist, notably in Spain (51st). Addressing these weaknesses and integrating ICT investments better with other innovation enhancing investments, such as R&D, would result in more robust economic outputs, which are needed for the economic transformation of these countries.”
Looking at the figures, it seems that what most pushed us up is the drop in mobile tariffs (on the affordability index we went up from 102nd to 41st!!!). We also seem to have improved a lot on the impact of ICTs on new products, services (38th to 27th) and organizational models (51st to 33rd)… But, worryingly, on capacity for innovation, we dropped from 44th to 57th… But ICTs are having more of an impact, which sounds innovative to me…
We seem to have improved a little bit on math and science education (97th to 88th), which is on the one hand encouraging but on the other hand frustrating that we’ve only just broken out of the bottom third worldwide… We improved quite a bit on staff training (105th to 97th), but it’s still embarrassing… On the number of households with a personal computer, we fell from 32nd to 36th… Really? Are households getting rid of their computers, or do we have more households? And in mobile phone usage (number of users as a % of population), we dropped from 57th to 75th! The bottom half of the ranking! That is difficult to reconcile with our stunning improvement in the affordability index. And I could have sworn that I saw more people on the metro staring at their little screens than last year…
We’ve plummeted in the venture capital availability ranking (down to 105th, that’s almost the bottom 25%!), although I question how they measure that. The WEF doesn’t seem to have too high an opinion of our judicial independence (we’re down to 72nd). We’re apparently still in the bottom third (98th) when it comes to contract enforcement. Combine those barriers with the punitive tax rate (there are only 16 nations below us), and it makes you wonder why we still try to set up businesses here.
Now, having lived through years of my friends and colleagues in the start-up/tech sector griping about how difficult it is to do business here and how technologically behind we are, this report is both refreshing, and a little depressing. Refreshing, in that we are improving! Yes! And, being a glass-half-full kind of person, we are now in the top 25%, which isn’t too bad.
It is a little depressing, though, when you look at all the countries that are ahead of us. How can that be, when we obviously have the bluest skies and the friendliest people and the best food? And yes, I know that’s a subjective opinion, not based on fact at all, or even on personal experience (I haven’t been everywhere, yet). Allow me a little adopted pride for this country I love, so full of room for improvement…
You can see the World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Reports for 2013 and 2014 here and here (quite good reading, actually, the 2014 report talks a lot about Big Data, and the 2013 report focusses more on Digitalization).
And if you want to know which countries come before Spain, here they are: