New Zealand has been ranked by the Fletcher School at the US’s Tufts University as one of the world’s top digital economies along with Singapore, the UK, the UAE, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel as digital elites characterised by high levels of digital development and a fast rate of digital evolution.
Fletcher School ‘s 2017 Digital Evolution Index, sponsored by Mastercard, ranked Australia, along in Western Europe, the Nordics and South Korea as ‘stall out’ countries with a history of strong growth, but slowing momentum [an] without further innovation … at risk of falling behind.”
The Index tracks the progress 60 countries have made since 2008 in developing their digital economies and integrating connectivity. It measures four key drivers: supply (or internet access and infrastructure), consumer demand for digital technologies, institutional environment (government policies/laws and resources) and innovation (investments into R&D and digital start-ups), through 170 indicators.
The 2017 Index builds on the first edition of the Index in 2014. According to Mastercard, the research behind this latest edition “considers numerous new factors to better reflect rapid changes in the digital world and create a report that is accurate, robust and comprehensive.”
New Zealand’s strong digital economy was attributed to a positive combination of infrastructure, incubating start-ups, a cultural commitment to innovation, and government support.
The index broke the top ‘stand out’ countries into two groups.
First are the international trade hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE. It says. “Geographically small, they have long histories as crossroads of trade and regional hubs for capital. These entrepôts are now as comfortable with digital businesses and data flows as they are with finance and commerce.”
Second are the nation states of the UK, Estonia, Israel and New Zealand. “These four countries are powering ahead of their rivals thanks to a complex formula of infrastructure, incubating start-ups, a cultural commitment to innovation, and government support.”
The index said government was a crucial element. “While some may believe true innovation happens when government ‘gets out of the way,’ the stand out countries of the Digital Evolution Index suggest there is, in fact, a significant role for the state to play in facilitating and fostering the digital economy.”
It notes that the New Zealand Government has said the contribution of digital to the economy could be tripled if more firms were digitally engaged. “At first glance, it would be easy to overlook New Zealand if evaluating global importance through the traditional lens of ‘trade route” mapping. Yet, in a digital world the winning currency is the ability to play globally, a mantle the nation has clearly embraced.”
Minister of internal affairs, Peter Dunne, issued a statement on the Index focusing on Government initiatives to digitally transform government services and how they are accessed.
“It’s great to know that our efforts to deliver better public services through digital transformation are being acknowledged as among the best in the world by esteemed international bodies and researchers,” He said.
“We’ve made great progress in our digital journey by making it easier for New Zealanders to access services when and where they need it, but we must not rest on our laurels. We must continue to innovate and harness the power of digital solutions to build on our gains and deliver even better services to New Zealanders.”