Taking a slide in digital rankings

James Riley
Editorial Director

Australia has continued its slide down the digital readiness rankings, falling one place to 14th in a comparative study of 63 countries. The downward trend is comprehensive, with Australia having been ranked 5th in the world in 2015.

If the overall ranking illustrates an uncomfortable trend, the numbers beneath it reveal structural issues that are even more alarming.

The IMD World Digital Competitiveness rankings were released overnight by CEDA and expose a general systemic weakness in training and education, and business agility.

Even the good news from the comparative study has to be tempered. Australia ranks number one in the world for ‘Country credit rating’ and for ‘Net flow of international students’.

The high ranking in these areas acts as cover for general poor relative rankings in education and training, and in capital, papering over areas of structural concern.

For example, Australia ranks 53rd out of 63 countries ranked for its output of science graduates, and 44th for its digital technology skills. Under a subcategory for ‘capital’, Australia ranks 36th for “funding for technological development’ and 34th for venture capital.

Under a ‘technological framework’ sub-category, Australia ranked 54th for ‘communications technology’ and 38th for broadband speeds.

But it is in the area of business agility that will be most concerning to policymakers, where it has performed poorly across the board.

Overall the five top-ranked countries for digital readiness remained unchanged compared to last year with the United States holding on to the number one spot, followed by Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland.

CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento said the results showed Australia had more work to do if it is to keep pace with other economies.

Ms Cilento said that while the Australian community had an appetite for new technology with a high uptake of smartphones and tablets – ranking ninth and third respectively – we don’t rank well in terms of higher technical skills.

“We also need to be aware that economies in our region are making big gains in digital competitiveness with Hong Kong and South Korea entering the top 10 while Taiwan and China have moved up to 13 and 22 respectively from 16 and 30,” she said.

“Our Asia Pacific neighbours are making serious investments into skills and technology infrastructure, both areas where we have dropped off in key areas, and we need to ensure we keep pace. These are the drivers of future competitiveness and opportunity.

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