How To Unlock the Potential Of The Digital Economy

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ADVERTORIAL: Huawei’s Global Connectivity Index explains how the world is embracing digital transformation to achieve future success

Whether you need a taxi into town, a bite to eat or even a date – there’s an app for it. In fact, with so many traditional businesses and startups reaching out to consumers online these days, there’s now an app for pretty much everything. Digital business has become big business.

The digital economy, an economy based on digital computing, is something that businesses and nations alike have started taking seriously, and with good reason.

The term was first coined in 1995 in Don Tapscott’s book The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence. This was one of the first publications to consider how the Internet would change the way we do business. And change it has. So much so, that in April 2017, the UK established the Digital Economy Act 2017 – a law that, among other things, makes provisions about electronic communications infrastructure and services, as well as data-sharing.

The UK is certainly one of the global frontrunners in this department, with a recent study by telecoms firm Huawei naming it the fifth most advanced digital economy out of 50 countries examined.

Huawei’s 2017 Global Connectivity Index (GCI) ranks the USA the highest among surveyed countries, with other mature economies Singapore (2), Sweden (3) and Switzerland (4) completing this year’s top five.

A total of 21 countries improved their rank from the GCI 2015 to GCI 2017. Malaysia has seen the biggest improvement in that time, climbing five positions to 24th. Other nations to have made decent progress include Argentina, Chile and New Zealand – all of which moved up three positions in the rankings – while Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain and Vietnam all climbed up two positions

The countries that have seen the greatest improvement in connectivity all have a few attributes in common. They have experienced significant ICT Infrastructure investment, have enhanced user applications and experiences, and have a government policy environment that incentivises national ICT development. The GCI data notes that these countries also have high performance in 4G coverage, broadband download speed, and made notable progress toward deploying Cloud. From a policy perspective, governments of the top movers are prioritising initiatives that aim to enhance citizens’ experience with ICT.

When it comes to nations’ ICT development, the GCI has identified three categories:

Starters: These countries are in the early stage of ICT infrastructure build-out. Their focus is on increasing ICT supply to give more people access to the digital economy.

Adopters: Nations in this cluster experience the biggest GDP growth from ICT Infrastructure. They are working to increase ICT demand to facilitate industry digitisation and high-quality economic growth.

Frontrunners: This group of countries is made up of mainly developed economies, such as the UK. These nations continually boost user experience, and use Big Data and IoT to create a more efficient society.

Huawei’s GCI has identified a growing gap between these clusters, though. Worryingly, this gap is developing into a chasm, which could have dire consequences for countries that struggle with ICT development. Digital transformation of companies, government, industry and society has strong ties to innovation, productivity, economic growth, and education, so countries that increasingly lag behind the frontrunners will suffer.

The GCI data, however, shows that investment in ICT Infrastructure – big data, broadband, cloud services, datacentres and IoT – can level the playing field by sparking a chain reaction that leads to digital transformation.

GCI 2017 pinpoints investing in Broadband as the first step to tap Cloud capabilities. Cloud capabilities can then act as a powerful equaliser for adopters and starters, in particular, to take giant strides ahead in the technology stack, drive innovation and achieve sustainable growth. Cloud computing is considered to be a potent catalyst in the chain and a gateway to the power of Big Data and IoT.

Countries around the globe must focus on three strategies in particular, according to GCI 2017, if they are to take full advantage of the digital economy.

  • ICT Infrastructure-related priorities

Nations should include ICT policies as an integral part of their economic development plans to encourage and incentivise digital transformation. Broadband’s role is to enable Cloud Services and the software that runs on the Cloud.

  • Industry and company-related priorities

Building on each country’s local comparative advantages, policy makers should consider more industry-friendly policies to help promote Digital Transformation.

  • People-related priorities

The GCI recommends collaboration with educational institutions, education ministries, labour departments and technology enablers to ensure that education for building digital access and skills is universally accessible, targeted and fully utilised.