The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Fletcher School, Tuffs University and Mastercard, created the Digital Evolution Index in 2015: a ranking of the world’s most digital countries compiled from 60 nations and evaluating about 170 indicators. The result of the survey covering the period 2008-2015 has produced a kind of map that divides the world into four zones based on the presence of different characteristics, the spread of digital technologies, social, etc.. The four zones can be described as follows:

  • Stand Out, i.e., the most digitally advanced countries continue to generate demand and evolve;
  • Stall Out, these are the countries that have a high rate of digital advancement but must strive to reinvent themselves and foster innovation;
  • Break Out, on the other hand, are countries that currently report a low rate of digitization but are evolving rapidly, making them particularly attractive to investors;
  • Watch Out, i.e., those nations that perform the worst in terms of both digitization and development momentum.

In reading the categories described, it is natural to begin to get ideas about whether certain countries belong in one category or another: let’s see if these basic ideas of each of us are reflected in the results.

Let’s dispel a myth right away: among the most digital countries in the world, we don’t always find the richest ones. Two of the world’s most important economies, such as the United States and Germany, sit on the border between the Stand Out and Stall Out zones. Surprisingly, Japan also does not fall into the Stand Out zone, but has yet to implement policies that favor innovation on a par with the United States and Germany. So who is in the “top” area?! It’s the countries of Asia, particularly Singapore, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, that are all looking down on us. No less important are the results achieved by other Asian nations, such as China and Malaysia, where there is a “sparkling” air and initiatives are underway to keep up with the Stand Out area.

One of the key factors that has enabled various nations to achieve higher or lower levels of digitization has been the support of politics and state policies, mixed with the size of the nations themselves. Europe, on the whole, stood out for having put in place strong policies bringing nations such as the United Kingdom and Estonia close to the Stand Out zone.

As for Italy, we are in a special position: practically in the middle! This means that we are not in an advanced position on innovation, but neither are we backward, that some effort is being made for digital, perhaps the bare minimum…we can say, optimistically, that we have ample room for improvement!

Beyond the ranking and the map drawn up, the World Economic Forum has generically found the following.

  • Digital technology is spreading fast with a steady increase in mobile connections across the planet…so much so that more people have access to a smartphone than have a bathroom. This growth has to contend with a parallel trend in cyber crimes and their subsequent negative impact.
  • Pulling the strings are the big tech companies that have enormous market power: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook are in the top five…and all five are American.
  • Digital technologies represent our future, particularly in the world of work with the advent of automation, big data and artificial intelligence.
  • Another fact is that the digital market is varied and characterized by different languages and policies, so much so that in many countries some sites or companies are blocked, denoting an uneven access to digital.
  • E-commerce growth continues even though cash continues to play an important and decidedly dominant role.

Sara Avanzi