news Australia has slipped from 16th to 18th place in the global digital competitiveness rankings, according to the latest annual report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The Global Information Technology Report 2016 lists nations’ Networked Readiness Index ranking, based on research carried out by the WEF and a network of over 160 partner institutes. This includes the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), the WEF’s partner institute in Australia.
“Despite the NBN roll-out and the efforts from all sides of politics to improve our digital readiness Australia clearly still has some way to go to regain a place inside the world’s top ten,” said Innes Willox, Ai Group CEO.
“As an advanced economy, Australia ranks relatively poorly compared to its peers. Indeed, there is a clear gap between the top seven ranked economies and other advanced economies,” Willox said.
“These countries (dominated by Singapore, northern Europe and the US) currently lead the way in embedding and leveraging digital technologies. Critically, they are characterised by a business sector that is embracing new digital technologies and innovations as core parts of operations,” he said.
For Australia, the 2016 result is “disappointing” at a time of economic and political uncertainty, Willox added.
“[W]e should be doing all we can to improve our productive performance at all levels and through all means. It comes off a small improvement in 2015 (from 18th to 16th) and steers us further away from our top 9 ranking in 2004,” he said.
In the last year, Iceland and New Zealand have edged ahead of Australia in their digital competitiveness. This should serve as a warning that, if Australia does not work harder to continue to improve its competitiveness, “we will be further left behind by other advanced economies”, Willox said.
He suggested that Australian businesses need to further embrace ICT and improve their capacity to innovate, but government has a role too.
“Central to improving digital competitiveness will be development of effective policies to encourage business innovation and use of ICT and the development of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills needed to leverage new technologies.”
The group noted that recent initiatives, including the National Innovation & Science Agenda and the Industry 4.0 Taskforce, are “important” to support Australia’s participation in the “fourth Industrial Revolution” and to lift the nation’s global competitiveness.
“We encourage bipartisan support in these types of productivity-boosting initiatives,” Willox said.