Australia’s spot in the growing global digital divide

Ai Group has just released the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015 report on the ability of businesses and the wider community to use information and communications technology (ICT) to support growth, competition and development. Ai Group has also released an accompanying summary report of Australia’s performance this year.

This year’s theme in the WEF report is the growing digital divide within and across countries in an environment where the tide of technological development is unwavering.

As an example, the WEF report shows that across many key indicators the advanced economies are substantially outperforming the less developed economies, with the greatest divide in terms of infrastructure, affordability and individual usage:

Source: WEF report, p. 14

Source: WEF report, p. 14

And the WEF considers that this digital divide is growing, illustrating areas where advanced economies are out-pacing developing countries over time.

Compared to most of the other 142 countries surveyed, Australia is faring much better, with slow improvements in its overall ranking from 18th place in 2014 to 16th in 2015.

But compared to other advanced economies and Australia’s past peak performances, there are areas in need of improvement in Australia. Assessments of our policy and regulatory environment have flatlined at 15th in 2014 and 2015, and our business and innovation environment assessment dropped in ranking from 21st in 2014 to 23rd in 2015.

Businesses’ ICT usage (for which Australia is now ranked 24th) is a key avenue for realising broader community-wide benefits. Businesses could consider more efficient and innovative ways in which ICT can be used to deliver services to their customers.

Government could also consider investing more and smarter in ICT (we’re ranked 73rd for ICT procurement), developing an appropriate ICT training and skills framework (ranked 38th on maths and science and education, and 30th for extent of staff training), and tax reforms and R&D incentives to encourage innovation and productivity (ranked 103rd on total tax rate).

For further information on the WEF’s 2015 report, please check out the report, as well as Ai Group’s summary on Australia’s performance.

What do you think of the WEF’s view on a growing global digital divide and Australia’s performance this year? Have your say below.

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Charles is Digital Capability and Policy Lead at Ai Group, concentrating principally on policy relating to technology and digital issues. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including energy, broadcasting and telecommunications. Previously, he advised on energy policy for the Australian Energy Market Commission, and was Assistant Director of Engineering for Free TV Australia.

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