Research Firm Offers Map of Digital Economy

The “Global New E-Economy Index,” a cyber atlas that maps the technological vitality of 47 nations based on five digital economy factors, was published Tuesday by IT research firm Meta Group.

According to study author Howard Rubin, Ph.D., “Traditional, industrial-age measures of production and performance have lost relevance in the information age. Currently, information processing capability is a better indicator of national competitive advantage.”

Dr. Rubin is a well-known information technology expert who has advised the Clinton administration and the United Nations. Beginning in 2001, the Meta Group plans to update the index continuously.

Not Just E-Commerce

The Meta Group’s index has important economic and social implications, particularly to the extent that it measures the “digital divide,” or demographic gap in Internet access between rich and poor.

Rubin told the E-Commerce Times that the digital divide is about more than “who can do online shopping.” He said one of the important issues raised by the digital divide is adequate access to healthcare information.

Only Just Begun

According to Rubin, the new index is just the beginning of an ambitious project to plot the global digital landscape. The 47 countries currently mapped were chosen because they had data available from which researchers could draw conclusions. Rubin hopes to have the technological status of 100 countries by the end of the year.

Comparing the current research to the first maps of the earth, Rubin added, “We know it’s not flat and it’s not round, but we’re not sure what shape it is.”

The five categories consisted of knowledge jobs, technological innovation, degree of transformation to a digital economy, economic dynamism, and globalization.

Top Five Countries

The overall index ranked the United States well ahead of the other 46 countries in technological competitiveness. Rounding out the top five were Japan, Germany, France, and Finland. The U.S. also ranked first in two of the five new economy categories — globalization and transformation to a digital economy — and no lower than fourth in the other three measurements.

Rubin said that based on his experience working with countries around the world, he was surprised that neither Ireland nor India finished in the top 10 overall. Ireland ranked 25th and India came in at 34th overall.

Another surprise was the Philippines, which was ranked number one in the knowledge jobs category, although it did not finish higher than 26th in any other category and was ranked 26th overall.

Rounding out the top five in the knowledge jobs category were Australia, the U.S., Canada, and France.

Innovators

Japan led in the technology innovation category, followed by the U.S., Germany, Russia, China, and France. Neither Russia, which ranked 39th overall, nor China, which ranked 37th overall, was among the top 10 leaders in any other category.

Measurements in this category included number of patents issued, research and development expenditures, and the number of R&D personnel.

Transformers and Competitors

In the degree of transformation to a digital economy category, the U.S. was followed closely by Finland, Iceland, Canada, and Norway. Measurements in this category included Internet connections, e-commerce development, telecommunications investments, computer usage, and computer power.

Finland ranked number one in the economic dynamism and competition category, followed by the Netherlands, Taiwan, the U.S., and Sweden. Factors measured included productivity, worker motivation, process management skills, entrepreneurship, corporate financial health, and availability of venture capital.

Following the U.S. in the globalization category were the UK, Germany, France, and Japan. Components of the globalization category included exports of goods and commercial services, overseas investment flows, investment in overseas stock, and the absence of import barriers.

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