Australia still sucks at being digitally competitive

Australia making slow but sure progress. Photo: Getty Images/Stephen Chernin

Australia advanced just two places to reach 16th in the latest global rankings for digital competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report.

The Networked Readiness Index (NRI) measures how successful countries are in leveraging information and communication technologies for economic and social impact.

Annual findings show Australia features in the top 10 for infrastructure and boasts “the 4th highest penetration rate of mobile telephone subscriptions of the third generation or above”.

But Australia has suffered a disappointing decline in digital competitiveness in the last decade, after peaking at 9th place in 2004.

Last year Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said progress could be made with a National Broadband Network rollout to ensure “business and industry are well placed to take full advantage of the opportunities it creates”.

“If we are to seize the opportunities enabled by broadband we also need to urgently lift our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills especially as 75% of occupations in the future will require strong STEM skills.”

The report suggested Australia could do more to encourage the use of ICTs.

“The economy is largely dependent on commodity exports and is not particularly innovative. In order to develop this capacity for innovation, diversify the economy, and build resilience, the government and businesses should embrace ICTs even more enthusiastically,” it said.

Singapore beat out Finland and Sweden as the top ranked country for digital competitiveness.

How Australia ranks on other ICT capabilities:

  • 17th on “Environment” from a peak of 8th in 2007.
  • 7th on “Readiness” from a trough of 26th in 2011, owing to a large improvement in mobile ICT affordability.
  • 20th on “Usage” from a peak of 11th in 2008.
  • 19th on “Impact” from 16th in 2012.

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