Country and regional trends from the NRI
This section of the chapter turns to the general global and regional trends emerging from this year’s results of the NRI (see Tables 1 through 5), as well as to a detailed analysis of the performance of selected economies.
Networked readiness continues to improve almost everywhere in the world, with a clear upward trend in mean country performance across all regions; however, convergence within regions is far from being the norm (Figure 10). Clearly divergent regional performances are observed for the group of countries within Eurasia; Emerging and Developing Europe; the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP); and sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of MENAP and sub-Saharan Africa, this is driven by the fact that top countries improve their performance at the same time that the performance of the worst-scoring countries is deteriorating. There is a clear upward trend for the entire range of countries for the group of Advanced Economies, Emerging and Developing Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Notably, the group of Emerging and Developing Asian countries is both moving up and converging in terms of overall NRI scores. Average performance on the NRI in 2016 is highest for the group of Advanced Economies, followed by Emerging and Developing Europe, the Eurasian countries and MENAP (the two are approximately even), Emerging and Developing Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The overall improvement in the NRI score masks a diversity of trends across subindexes (Figure 12 below). Most importantly, there is a clear positive trend both in terms of Usage and Impact across regions. The regulatory and innovation environment is perceived to be improving as well, but although this improvement has been large in Eurasia, it is almost negligible in Latin America and the Caribbean, where regulatory reforms seem to have come to a standstill in many countries. Performance in terms of Readiness is mostly stagnant, with large intertemporal fluctuations driven by changes in affordability and sluggish improvements in skills and infrastructure, where investments have not been enough to keep up with the pace of increase in Usage. Affordability remains a barrier to ICT adoption and use in sub-Saharan Africa, and indeed this barrier seems to be growing.
The distribution of scores across the 10 pillars shows interesting patterns (Figure 11) and provides further support for the findings outlined above. Infrastructure and individual usage are the two areas with the largest dispersion of performance across countries, with advanced economies leading the way and sub-Saharan Africa still behind other regions—although certain countries in the region are pushing ahead (see the Country/Economy Profiles). Countries’ scores in business usage and economic impact is most skewed toward the lower end of the distribution, with the average performance of advanced economies placed well ahead that of the rest of the world and that of the best performers (Switzerland and Finland, respectively) having the largest gap from the upper end of the interquartile range. This confirms that businesses in only a few economies are leveraging ICTs at their full potential and reaping the resulting strong economic impact. As in previous years, affordability is the only area where advanced economies as a whole are not the best-performing group (note that while “affordability” indicators capture prices without quality adjustments, it is ultimately the price that poses the entry barrier for the poorest and not the quality-adjusted price). The advanced economies are preceded in this regard by the group of Eurasian countries, and Pakistan is the market with the lowest price points. Sub-Saharan Africa is at this moment still the lowest-scoring region, with the notable exception of the perceived political and regulatory environment, where the region follows advanced economies and MENAP countries and precedes Emerging and Developing Asia, Emerging and Developing Europe, Eurasia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In terms of best performers, Luxembourg replaces New Zealand this year as having the best political and regulatory environment, and Finland has been toppled by Singapore as the country with the best skillset.
Overall, and as was explored in detail in the 2015 edition of this Report, the digital divide is still wide, yet progress is being made. In particular, several initiatives have been formed to tackle this gap, including the World Economic Forum’s Internet for All initiative, which aims to help connect the 4 billion people who are not yet online (see Box 5).
Box 5: The World Economic Forum’s Internet for All initiative
Internet for All is one of the core projects of the Forum’s Digital Economy and Society System Initiative. As a critical enabler of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Internet for All focuses on connecting the over 4 billion people not yet connected to the Internet. The project’s core objective is to develop scalable, replicable, public-private collaboration models to accelerate Internet access and adoption at the national, regional, and global levels.
In 2015, Internet for All convened stakeholders from various backgrounds to collect successful practice examples for global Internet access and adoption, and to develop a framework in which to accelerate achieving “Internet for all.” The framework emphasizes the need for an ecosystem approach to simultaneously address the challenges related to infrastructure, affordability, skills and awareness, and content. The report also includes a checklist, based on the framework, to help policymakers and others assess where their countries currently stand and the kinds of programs to consider. The white paper “Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption” can be accessed at
In 2016, Internet for All has two main objectives:
- To develop new scalable and replicable on-the-ground models of public-private collaboration, in partnership with governments, to accelerate the achievement of the broader social and economic priorities of the country/region in the context of accelerating Internet for all. Programs will be launched initially in up to three countries/regions. The first such program, for Northern Corridor countries in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda), was launched in May 2016, and additional country program partnership opportunities in Asia and Latin America will also be explored.
- To develop a physical and digital platform that results in increased coordination and collaboration among the multiple private, bilateral/multilateral, and non-profit organizations involved in catalyzing Internet access and adoption at the global, regional, and country levels.
Top 10 NRI performers
The composition of the group of top 10 performers is unchanged from last year. The group consists of a mix of high-income Southeast Asian (Singapore and Japan) and European countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg) as well as the United States. Networked readiness therefore remains highly correlated with per capita income.
- Singapore tops the Index this year, defending its number 1 position. Its outstanding performance is underlined by the fact that it ranks 1st in the world in three of the four subindexes (Environment, Usage, and Impact), driven by top spots on several pillars: political and regulatory environment (2nd), business and innovation environment (1st), skills (1st), government usage (1st), and social impact (1st). Overall, this ranking is to a large extent the result of strong government commitment to the digital agenda, including its Smart Nation program. The drop in the Readiness subindex to 16th place is largely explained by a drop in the affordability of broadband, although the price points of broadband packages may hide quality differences (i.e., a price increase may come with a quality increase). Singapore currently has an offline population of 18 percent, potentially explained by its demographics, and the country is still out of the top 10 for individual usage (12th) and business adoption (14th). Nevertheless, gains from ICT adoption are widely shared in Singapore, as the country tops the Social impacts pillar, making excellent use of digital technologies to provide access to basic and government services and ensuring that schools are connected.
- Finland stays in 2nd place with an unchanged overall score, but sees some slight rank drops for the Environment, Usage, and Impact subindexes. The country tops the rankings in the Readiness subindex. This is the result of high scores in particular in the infrastructure (3rd) and skills pillars (2nd); in addition, affordability is very good (13th), although Finland is one of several countries that sees broadband prices increase significantly this year (51st, down from 39th in 2015). There is currently room for improvement in particular in the business and innovation environment, where Finland ranks 9th. With 14 days to start a business, the country comes in only at a low 81st place in this particular indicator; as pressure for firms to bring products to market quickly is increasing, these types of framework conditions matter more than ever. That said, Finland has extremely good access to the latest technologies (1st) as well as venture capital (6th), and its businesses are highly connected (5th on business usage). These factors are all important in helping Finland achieve its top global rank in economic impacts. The government is currently perceived as playing a less proactive role in promoting ICTs than in the past (21st place, down from 10th in 2013): indicators are dropping for government procurement of advanced technologies, importance of ICTs to government vision, government success in ICT promotion, and ICT use to boost government efficiency.
- Sweden keeps its 3rd position in the NRI as scores in all four subindexes remain almost unchanged. Overall, it ranks best in Usage (4th), which derives from very high scores in individual (4th) and business usage (2nd), and notably does very well in Impact (3rd). Businesses are taking advantage of the fact that their consumer base is highly connected, which is reflected in one of the highest rates of B2C interaction globally (4th). Government, on the other hand, is not yet connecting with citizens online to the same extent as business, with a 45th rank for the government E-Participation Index. In general, the Swedish government is perceived as less proactive than other advanced economies in their use of digital technologies (23rd for government usage); in particular, business executives feel that it has somewhat been losing sight of the digital agenda (20th for government ICT vision, down from 11th in 2014). Yet the government has been taking steps to improve the overall framework conditions for business: there is visible progress in several areas of the political and regulatory environment and the business and innovation environment pillars. In particular, Sweden slashes the number of days it takes to start a business from 16 to 7, moving it up 45 places in the ranking in this indicator to 42nd place. Driven to an important extent by the business sector, digital technologies are making themselves felt in terms of economic impact (3rd) and an improvement by four places in social impact to 12th.
- Norway moves up one rank to 4th place, with small but positive score changes in all four subindexes. The country seems to have reached a plateau, with little movement in its total NRI score in recent years. Its digital economy is built on the very solid basis of top regulatory and innovation environments (6th and 7th, respectively) as well as the world’s best ICT infrastructure. Although fixed broadband prices are relatively high (71st) there has not been a further increase this year, and with 96.3 percent of the population online (2nd for individuals using the Internet), the high prices do not seem to act as an access barrier. Similar to the situation in Sweden, Norwegian firms are capitalizing on the high ICT literacy among the general population and workforce by using digital technologies heavily in their interactions with consumers as well as among each other (8th and 7th, respectively). There has also been a visible positive move in government usage (importance in vision, success in ICT promotion, and government efficiency), moving the country up six places to the 18th rank in the government usage pillar. Unsurprisingly, these strong digital foundations are reflected in two 8th ranks for the two Impact pillars.
- The United States moves up two ranks overall, continuing a positive trend from 2013 (from 9th place in 2013 to 7th in both 2014 and 2015 to 5th place this year). This is based on improvements in all four subindexes.24 The United States stands out in terms of its extremely favorable business and innovation environment (3rd), which has given rise to one of the most agile and digitized business sectors globally. The public sector is also using digital technologies effectively to deliver services to citizens (4th the on Government Online Service index) and to facilitate participation (9th on the E-Participation Index). All stakeholders can take advantage of very low broadband prices (ranked 17th), with the cheapest package at US$16 per month, compared to a global average of US$52 and an average of US$26 in high-income countries;25 however, although international Internet bandwidth per user has been growing steadily in recent years, the race has accelerated such that the United States is slipping from 34rd in 2013 to 42nd this year. The overall impact of digital technologies in the United States is strong (it ranks 7th for both economic and social impacts) and growing, in particular in the social dimension: this year, the United States moves up 15 places to rank 15th in the perceived impact of ICTs on access to basic services.
- The Netherlands drops by two spots in the overall rankings, but remains one of the countries that makes the best use of digital technologies to achieve both economic and, in particular, social impacts (it ranks 6th and 3rd, respectively, in the two pillars and 2nd in the Impact subindex). This is despite high mobile tariffs (105th) and high and rising broadband prices (85th, down from 68th). Other drops at the indicator level can largely be attributed to the fact that, although conditions are stable or even improving slightly in absolute terms, other countries are moving ahead faster. This is true in particular for the business and innovation environment as well as ICT infrastructure. The Dutch population is one of the most technology savvy and connected in the world (8th for individual usage), an asset that both the government and the business sector are making good use of (3rd for B2C Internet use, 8th for the Government Online Service index, and 1st for the E-Participation index). Businesses are extensively deploying digital technologies to reshape their business and organizational models (4th in both indicators) and basic service providers, whether they are public or private, are working hand-in-hand with the population to facilitate access via their platforms (2nd).
- Switzerland slips by one spot overall to 7th, placing in the top 10 for the Environment, Readiness, and Impact and 12th for Usage subindexes. The country moves up by two places in the innovation environment assessment, largely driven by a jump in perceived availability of venture capital as well as continued high levels of government procurement of advanced technologies; this is against an overall global trend of falling government demand for the latest technologies. However, in general the government has so far been a less avid adopter and promoter of digitization, as reflected in a 43rd place for government usage. Although it is strong in the high-tech procurement market, it seems to be using digital technologies relatively less to interact with citizens. On the other hand, the country remarkably places 1st for business usage, driven by high business technology absorption and innovation capacity and high levels of digital B2B interaction (interestingly, more than with consumers). This in turn has been generating strong economic impact (2nd rank), as reflected also in a steady upward trend in the share of knowledge-intensive jobs (3rd).
- The United Kingdom remains in 8th position, improving slightly in absolute scores on all four subindexes. Improvements at the indicator level are particularly concentrated in the business and innovation environment: perceived venture capital availability, the quality of management schools, and government procurement of advanced technologies have all increased compared to last year, while the number of days and procedures to start a business was reduced. Although infrastructure and individual usage are moving in the right direction, they are not moving fast enough to result in gains in the rankings. Business adoption is high and UK businesses are top in the world in making use of the Internet to interact with their consumers as well as with their production network (1st in B2C, 2nd in B2B). They are also pushing the boundaries in terms of using ICTs to reshape their business and organizational models (ranking 2nd and 1st, respectively). The government is also moving closer to the global frontier in terms of technology use, jumping six places into the top 10 of the government usage pillar.
- Luxembourg’s NRI rank stays the same as last year at 9th place, with its overall score continuing its steady upward trend. Improvements at the pillar level come in three areas: political and regulatory environment and individual usage, moving Luxembourg to 1st and 2nd place in these categories, respectively, and in the area where the country is most behind, affordability: here in particular, a large drop in mobile cellular tariffs moves the country up 14 places in the affordability pillar. Although performance in terms of innovation environment is mixed, good availability of venture capital (8th) and a strong government commitment to procuring advanced technologies (5th) bode well for the commercialization of new ideas. In general government is perceived to play an important role in supporting Luxembourg’s digital economy, with business executives attesting to a high importance of ICTs in the government’s vision (5th) and its success in ICT promotion (6th). Furthermore, strong framework conditions have been put in place, reflected in the top rank regarding the level of sophistication for ICT related laws (e.g., for e-commerce, digital signatures, and consumer protection). The country also boasts a top infrastructure with top ranks for international bandwidth (1st) and the number of secure servers per capita (3rd).
- Japan remains in 10th place overall, as in 2015, and is able to climb two places to 2nd in the Usage subindex; with business and government usage already among the highest globally (3rd and 7th, respectively), the country moves up two places in individual usage to 11th place. The business and innovation environment is improving visibly with progress in the perceived availability of venture capital, the quality of management schools, and government procurement of advanced technologies; this is the continuation of a strong positive trend, moving the country from 40th place in 2014 to 33rd in 2016 in this particular pillar. Japan also keeps building out its infrastructure, in particular international Internet bandwidth and the number of secure servers. In terms of impact, the country is slightly losing ground, mainly because its peers are moving ahead faster.
Italy is among the group of top movers this year, climbing up by 10 places to an overall NRI rank of 45. The most significant driver is a large improvement in terms of both economic and social impacts, putting Italy 18 places ahead in the Impact rankings to 48th. Over the past years, the Italian government has launched a number of policies aiming at improving the provision of online services to its citizens and creating a better environment for start-ups and innovative companies. However, key constraints remain, including the lack of venture capital and the overall political and business environment. Here the country seems to be moving in the right direction, gaining in almost every aspect of the regulatory environment pillar, but it remains far below the global average. Italy is currently doing best in individual usage (37th), followed by business (52nd) and government use (62nd). Yet only a small portion of Italians are connected to fixed broadband: the number has been historically low but the gap with other advanced economies has only increased in recent years, when subscriptions per 100 people increased by less than 10 percent from 21.9 (28th highest, in 2010) to 23.5 (36th, in 2014). With the private sector currently reorganizing itself and the launch of the 2015 national Digital Agenda, which will unfold in the coming years, the country has an opportunity to close this gap. Going forward, it will be important to capitalize on this positive momentum.
The Slovak Republic is one of the two biggest movers in this year’s NRI, climbing 12 ranks to 47th place, mainly on the back of reinforced effort from the public sector: although the country ranks fairly low in the regulatory environment (its lowest ranks overall are in this category), it is starting to catch up this year in terms of the effectiveness of law-making bodies, laws relating to ICTs, and judicial independence. Furthermore, the government is perceived to have been more active in procuring advanced technologies as well as putting digital technologies to use to increase government efficiency. This is reflected in large moves compared to last year for these indicators, of 29 and 31 places, respectively (to 89th and 80th). In addition, the business and innovation environment is perceived to be improving markedly in terms of venture capital and tech availability, as well as procedures to start a business. Together with fairly high individual usage (34th), a good level of buy-in from the business sector (48th), and quickly dropping fixed broadband prices, the efforts to embrace the digital economy are starting to pay off: the Slovak Republic is able to improve its ranking in the Impact subindex by 14 places to 44th. This is thanks to better access to basic services as well as firms taking advantage of digital technologies to innovate in terms of organizational and business models.
Kuwait is another top mover in the NRI this year, moving up 11 spots to 61st place. This gain is supported by substantial improvements in particular in Readiness, Usage, and Impact. These improvements are very much driven by individuals and businesses. Kuwait is doing very well overall in terms of individual adoption—ranking overall 32nd and very high in individual indicators: mobile coverage (1st), mobile phone subscriptions (2nd), households with personal computers (14th), and mobile broadband subscriptions (2nd)—and is close to attaining a rank in the top half for business adoption. In particular, the country substantially improves its international Internet bandwidth per user, jumping more than 50 places to rank 51st, according to ITU data. All of this is starting to show in terms of economic impacts: Kuwait reports a large perceived improvement in ICT impact on business model innovation this year (although starting from a low base). Although social impact is perceived to have improved less than economic impact, it is worth noting that the social impact of ICTs in Kuwait is perceived to be substantially higher than economic impact (84th for social, 102nd for economic). This is a good basis on which to build for further improvements, and the government continues on its course to improve the regulatory environment, as it has done over the past year.
Despite an overall mixed performance, South Africa makes large strides in the overall NRI rankings to 65th, almost entirely driven by improvements in infrastructure and affordability. South Africa’s digital transformation is mostly business driven, as the country notably performs best in business usage (32nd), followed by individual usage (77th), followed by government usage (105th). Although the country is perceived by South African business executives to be performing relatively well in terms of its regulatory and political environment, its innovation and business environment is rated significantly worse and, in addition, shows strong signs of deterioration—especially regarding technology and venture capital availability, government procurement of the latest technologies, and days as well as procedures to start a business. It would be a pity if these developments were to offset investments in infrastructure that have significantly increased international Internet bandwidth and put the country among the top 20 globally on this particular indicator. Furthermore, mobile tariffs have more than halved and broadband tariffs dropped slightly, reducing barriers to adoption also in terms of affordability. In order for impact to start materializing, significantly more buy-in from government will be needed across all areas of vision, promotion, and efficient use.
Lebanon is the second biggest mover this year, gaining 11 ranks to land in 88th place in the overall NRI. Importantly, the country is registering substantial positive moves in all four subindexes. In terms of adoption, Lebanon is doing best in individual usage (46th), followed by business usage (97th) and government usage (124th). Most indicators of personal usage have been improving over the past year, with the business sector catching up in its use and adoption of digital technologies; with overall perceived progress in business adoption being slow around the world, this is a positive exception to the trend. Starting from a low level, government indicators are also moving in the right direction: in particular, the regulatory environment is improving in terms of judicial independence, the efficiency of the legal system, and the effectiveness of law-making bodies. Substantial improvements are registered for the impact of ICTs on business models, organizational models, basic services, and government efficiency. Building also on a solid basis in terms of education, skills, and knowledge-intensive jobs, Lebanon has many of the factors in place to continue on this positive trajectory.
Côte d’Ivoire stands out as improving in almost every dimension of networked readiness. All but eight indicators go up this year, leaving the country nine places improved in 106th position. The business community reports large gains in the regulatory and business environment. In particular, strong government efforts to lower entry barriers by slashing the number of days (from 32 to 7 days since 2013) and procedures to start a business (4 steps, down from 10) are noteworthy. Business executives also feel that the government has a strong ICT vision and correspondingly considerable success in ICT promotion (80th place for government usage, up from 114th). In addition, they attest to considerable ICT-driven improvements in government efficiency. As business and individual usage are also growing strongly, the existing infrastructure is starting to be stretched—this is one of the few areas where Côte d’Ivoire is falling behind. Going forward, progress in upgrading infrastructure and tackling affordability seem top priorities for sustaining momentum.
Ethiopia moves up 10 spots to 120th place in the NRI, led by the government sector (71st for government usage). Yet the business sector is starting to catch up, moving up 8 spots to 127th, as executives feel innovation capacity in the country is increasing and businesses are starting to explore the use of the Internet to interact with consumers (123rd this year, up from 138th). It will be important that this momentum is not broken by a deteriorating business environment; in particular, setting up a new business seems to be getting tougher, with the required number of days and procedures increasing. The private sector is also still constrained by a very small base of online consumers: only 31 percent of the population had a mobile phone subscription in 2014. Yet, because prices are falling significantly, ICTs will become accessible to a larger part of the population (93rd rank on affordability, up from 113th). In addition, the country has been edging forward on the skills dimension, although a large gap remains to be closed. Importantly, the NRI figures suggest that there have been significant improvements in giving schoolchildren access to the Internet (ranking 96th, up from 115th), an effort that will most certainly pay off in the coming years.
Other selected economies
The Republic of Korea further improves its score but less than its peers, and thus slips one notch to 13th. The country’s political and regulatory environment, historically one of its relative weaknesses, has improved significantly, especially when it comes to the judicial system. Infrastructure has also improved further, allowing Korea to climb to 5th position globally on the back of increased international bandwidth capacity (approximately 50 percent higher) and a further increase in the number of secure servers installed in the country. Digital technologies are fully leveraged in Korea to provide online services to the population (4th) and allowing the participation of citizens in public life and decision-making (1st). With 98.5 percent of households having access to the Internet, Korea has one of the most tech-savvy populations in the world. However, a stronger entrepreneurial spirit will be necessary to bring innovation out of the large chaebols and into the rest of the economy. Although it has increased in recent years, venture capital availability is still low, with most funds being channeled to existing companies rather than start-ups in the seed and early-growth stages.
Canada improves its absolute performance but less than its peers, thus sliding down three positions to 14th. The country can rely on one of the best business and innovation environments in the world (4th), where starting a business is easy and quick (ranking 3rd on both time and procedures to start a business). The potential of a highly skilled workforce (11th) remains partially untapped, as individual usage remains relatively low (30th): for example, there are only 54.3 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people in Canada (52nd), compared to 102.7 in the United States. Although the government has been quite successful in using digital technologies to provide online services (10th) and allow citizens’ e-participation (14th), it has not shown a strong vision for ICTs (49th) nor has it been particularly successful in promoting them (38th). This might change in the future because the government is stepping up efforts to promote innovation policies, which will need to include a strong ICT component. Once an innovation leader in the mobile industry, Canada still relies heavily on mining and medium-technology sectors. Improving businesses’ adoption of ICTs (22nd) can be a powerful driver of innovation for the country.
Germany drops two spots this year to 15th place, despite a slight improvement in its absolute score. Although businesses operate in a very good regulatory environment (16th), more can be done to support new firms—for example, by reducing further the number of days and procedures required to start a business. Germany’s infrastructure and skills base is one of the best in the world, while fixed broadband prices are high and rising. Individual adoption and usage is increasing further, although it is not moving fast enough to move Germany up in the rankings on this dimension. Germany is one of the highest-scoring countries for business usage (6th), yet the government is not yet using digital technologies to their full potential (30th); that said, executives feel that the government is starting to develop a stronger digital vision. A big positive jump is registered this year for the impact of ICTs on access to basic services.
With a stable overall score, Australia slips two spots to 18th position. Improvements in terms of Environment (16th, up one) are outweighed by a deterioration of the country’s level of Readiness, especially when it comes to affordability (57th), where fixed broadband subscriptions remain particularly expensive (US$46.7 PPP per month, ranked 100th worldwide). Individual usage has also increased in the country, with mobile broadband subscriptions largely widespread (10th highest penetration in the world) and more common than fixed ones (25th). The Australian government and public sector are among the leaders in the world in providing online services (8th) and allowing citizens’ e-participation (7th), but there is room for improvement in the level of businesses’ adoption of ICTs (28th), as the country still relies heavily on mining industries. The country’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, launched in December 2015, if fully implemented, might help to orient Australia’s economy more toward innovation, bridging some of the gaps, especially in venture capital availability (40th worldwide) and the creation of new business models via ICTs (41st).
With an improvement of performance across the board, France climbs up two positions to 24th place. Government and businesses are pushing the frontier of networked readiness in the country. France is the global leader in delivering public online services to its citizens and one of the best in terms of allowing their e-participation to the government’s decision process (4th). Over the past year, the government has also increased efforts in promoting ICTs and providing a long-term vision for the sector, including a Digital Republic Bill aiming to guide the way in which the ICT revolution will shape French society in the future. French businesses have also stepped up their efforts to leverage ICTs, especially in terms of adopting new organizational models (26th, up 22 positions) and improving B2B transactions (33rd, up 11). The country can rely on a skilled workforce (18th) and on good infrastructure (22nd), allowing, among other things, one of the highest penetrations in the world of fixed broadband (4th). Issues remain especially in the business environment, which has one of the highest taxation rates in the world—62.7 percent—although on a slowly declining trend.
The United Arab Emirates continues to lead the Arab world in terms of networked readiness in 26th position. The government is leading the way to greater digital connectivity (2nd in terms of government usage), providing a consistent vision for the sector and achieving success at promoting it (1st on both indicators). Individual usage has also further improved (19th, up one spot) especially in terms of mobile broadband subscriptions and households with Internet access, although other important ICT services are not yet widely available: in 2014, fixed broadband subscriptions were still 11.6 per 100 people. Businesses’ adoption of and the economic impacts of ICTs have been improving in recent years, but a gap still exists with most advanced economies in this area. Patent activity, both general and ICT-related, remains relatively low.
Malaysia’s overall position in the NRI has remained largely stable in recent years, with the country climbing one spot to 31st position in 2016. This strong performance continues to be supported by a government that is fully committed to the digital agenda and that is seen to be ahead of its peers in terms of adopting the latest technologies. With approximately two-thirds of the population online, individual usage is growing further (47th, up 10 spots); in particular, the uptake of mobile broadband has taken off and reached almost 60 percent. An agile business sector (26th for business usage) is using ICTs to its advantage, interacting with consumers online and re-optimizing business models and organizational structures, thereby contributing to the overall strong performance. An increase in international Internet bandwidth (currently ranked 81st) combined with a drop in broadband prices (110th) would give a further boost to Malaysia’s digital economy.
Saudi Arabia climbs up two positions to 33rd this year. The government is leading the way to increased networked readiness, promoting ICTs in the country; however, individual usage (21st) and business adoption (42nd) are still lagging behind. Affordability of ICTs (101st) and the general level of skills in the workforce (49th) remain an issue, with only 64 percent of the population using the Internet on a regular basis. Allowing further means of e-participation (51st) might contribute to spurring individual ICT adoption. The business and innovation environment is hampered by one of the most complex and lengthy processes in the world to start a business (125th and 97th, respectively), which reduces access to the market of potential new and innovative competitors. Saudi Arabia remains an oil-based economy, with low patenting activity in both general technology and ICTs. A transition to a more innovation-driven economic model will require improvements in the country’s ICT readiness, with a broad-based participation of the population and of the business community in the digital revolution.
The Russian Federation remains in 41st place this year, as in 2015. The country places in the top third of the rankings for Readiness, Usage, and Impact, yet continues to be held back by a weak and deteriorating regulatory environment. As mobile and fixed Internet tariffs are very low and dropping further (10th place overall on affordability), individual usage continues to rise in almost every dimension, leaving Russia in 40th place in this category. However, the data suggest that infrastructure build-out is not keeping up with demand as Russia sees its availability of Internet bandwidth per user falling. Although Russia is close to the median in terms of business use overall, online sales to consumers (as opposed to other firms) are particularly strong (35th place). The positive impact of ICTs is felt both in the economic and the social dimensions, as reflected in rankings in the top third for both impact pillars.
Turkey’s overall ranking and score remains unchanged from last year at 48th place, yet this fact masks strong conflicting movements at the pillar level. With some of the cheaper mobile and fixed Internet tariffs around and improving digital skills in the population, individual usage is broadening further. Yet these positive movements are offset by a deteriorating regulatory and business environment as well as the declining importance of ICTs in the government’s vision and promotion. Overall, the negative effects seem to outweigh the positive ones, with economic impacts and particularly social outcomes suffering. Turkey, however, remains in the top third of the rankings in terms of its business and innovation environment, a good basis from which to push further ahead.
China moves up by three places to 59th based on improvements in Usage and Impact. Adoption by individuals has increased, particularly in terms of mobile broadband subscriptions, which nearly doubled in one year from 21.4 to 41.8 per 100 population. Chinese businesses will need to step up their efforts to embrace digital technologies and spur innovative processes for the country to become an innovation-driven, high-income economy. Although patenting activity has increased significantly in recent years, it is still relatively low compared with that of advanced economies, and the full economic and social impacts of ICTs are still in the process of materializing. The business environment remains one of the key bottlenecks (104th): according to World Bank data, China maintains high taxation on businesses (67.8 percent) and has lengthy and complex processes to set up a new business (121st and 120th, respectively), discouraging new and more competitive firms from entering the market. Recognizing the challenge, the government is currently implementing a reform program to streamline business procedures across the country. The full results of these reforms will be reflected in future assessments.
Colombia maintains the same score as last year, but slips four ranks to 68th because other countries improved their performances. ICT adoption among the population kept increasing at a fast rate: there were 45.1 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 people in 2014, up from 25.0 in 2013 and 3.7 in 2011. This increase in individual usage has not been matched by a similar trend among businesses or within the government. The extent of usage of ICTs for B2B and B2C operations as well as for the creation of new business models has been stagnating in past years. The overall political and business environment in the country remains its main weakness, with low effectiveness of law-making bodies (121st) and an inefficient judicial system (1,288 days are required to enforce a contract, ranking 133rd in the world in this indicator). Taxation also remains disproportionately high, at a rate of 69.7 percent (6th highest among the countries in the sample).
Brazil comes in at 72nd place this year, partially reversing the strong downward trend of recent years.26 ICT adoption and usage by both individuals and the business community is good and supported by very good affordability—in particular, cheap fixed broadband Internet connections (14th). Brazil makes large strides in terms of improving individual usage this year, climbing five places to 57th—this is a considerable achievement, given that other countries are also moving quickly on individual adoption. Yet networked readiness in the country continues to be held back by a weak regulatory environment. The business and innovation environment is also ranked as one of the weakest in the world (124th), with both venture capital availability and government technology procurement falling further. Government support of the ICT agenda is perceived to be weak and the business community sees the government as failing to deliver in terms of incorporating digital technologies in their overall strategy (121st) as well as in the direct promotion of ICT (122nd).
Indonesia moves up six spots to 73rd place this year, driven in part by improvements in affordability and an accompanying strong rise in individual usage (92nd, up five spots). In order to capitalize on this positive trend, infrastructure will need to keep up; as the number of users is increasing, the existing infrastructure is starting to be stretched, which has the country dropping seven spots to rank 105th in this particular pillar. Business and government usage are already high at 34th and 65th rank, with a flat trend line for business and one that has been slightly on the decline for government. Although momentum across pillars is somewhat heterogeneous, a recently reformed regulatory (65th) and business environment (64th) provide a good basis for building out the digital economy, as long as recent backward slides for some important indicators are reversed (legislative, legal system, availability of latest technologies, and number of procedures to start a business).
Mexico places 76th in the NRI overall this year.27 Individual usage (84th) is rising further; in particular, mobile broadband subscriptions are becoming increasingly popular and individual usage is thus catching up with business usage (66th) and government usage (52nd). Although government use of ICTs was already considered relatively strong in the 2015 NRI, Mexico moves up 13 places in government ICT vision this year, to 71st; importantly, the government makes good use of ICTs to interact with the population, ranking 35th on the government services index. At the same time, the regulatory environment is perceived to have deteriorated along several lines, such as the efficiency of the legal system in settling disputes (104th) and challenging regulations (102nd). Economic impact is on an upward trajectory and Mexico is edging back on the social impacts ranking, having been overtaken by a significant number of countries between 2014 and 2015.
Rwanda climbs three spots this year to 80th position, driven by a government that is very focused on the digital agenda. The government is also making strong efforts to provide a stable regulatory framework, resulting in an improvement of five ranks in the Environment subindex. The private sector is making large strides in terms of adopting digital technologies, moving up 10 places to 60th rank for business usage. Individual adoption is still lagging (127th) as mobile fees and broadband prices remain high; efforts to provide Internet access in schools is an important step in the direction of boosting social gains, providing the next generation with important digital skills. In general, the social impact of digital technologies is being felt, in particular with regard to giving access to basic services.
Argentina continues on its upward trajectory, ranking 89th this year. Weak (though improving) regulatory and innovation environments seem to be the two biggest bottlenecks preventing larger gains from digital technologies. With mobile phone use one of the highest in the world (13th) and an overall solid adoption rate among individuals, businesses are making use of digital technologies to transact with consumers (76th), yet B2B ICT use remains low (120th). There is also much room for greater public-sector adoption of digital technologies: although the Argentinian government seems to be making good use of ICTs to provide services to the population (55th), the business community in 2015 perceived the government as lacking in vision and effort when it comes to ICT promotion. Yet the recent change in government looks ready to bring renewed momentum to the digital agenda. Consistent with previous years, Argentina does not have data in the affordability pillar because of the lack of reliable PPP estimates.
Despite of improvements in its political and regulatory environment (78th, up four) and in its business and innovation environment (110th, up five), India slips down two positions to an overall rank of 91. Although India’s absolute score has changed only marginally in recent years, the drop can be attributed in part to the fact that other countries are moving ahead at higher speeds. In addition, lack of infrastructure (114th) and low levels of skills among the population (101st) remain the key bottlenecks to widespread ICT adoption, especially in terms of individual usage (120th). A third of the Indian population is still illiterate (95th) and a similar share of youth is not enrolled in secondary education (103rd). Only 15 out of 100 households have access to the Internet and mobile broadband remains a privilege of the few, with only 5.5 subscriptions for every 100 people. This is in spite of the fact that affordability has long been one of the strengths of the Indian ICT ecosystem, with the country ranking 8th this year in this area. A deep divide persists between well-connected metropolitan hubs and remote rural areas, where even the most basic infrastructure is insufficient. In 2015 the government launched the Digital India program, which aims to close this gap by fostering investment in digital infrastructure, improving digital literacy, and increasingly providing online services to citizens. India’s performance in terms of providing online services and allowing e-participation has so far been in line with that of peer countries, but far from the global best (57th and 40th, respectively).
Although Nigeria did not move overall in the NRI rankings, staying in 119th position, this fact masks significant heterogeneity in terms of moves in individual dimensions of networked readiness—in particular, a six-spot move up in Readiness (to 117th) and a ten-spot move down in Impacts (to 114th). The improvement in Readiness is to a large extent thanks to Nigeria reaching full mobile coverage this year; broadband prices have also fallen slightly, although they remain high. The political and regulatory environment are perceived to be improving on several fronts, while at the same time the business and innovation environment are perceived as deteriorating. Government usage and engagement is perceived to have dropped significantly over the course of the last year, yet this may change under the new government that came to power in 2015. Overall, conditions for ICT impacts seem to have deteriorated: both economic and social impacts record a decline. A policy priority with far-reaching benefits in other areas should be to address the country’s skills gap (134th).