How ICT is transforming the world’s businesses
The World Economic Forum recently released its 10th anniversary edition of The Global Information Technology Report. Under the theme Transformations 2.0, the report looks at how modern businesses are harnessing the transformative power of Information and Communications Technology, or ICT, to drive their businesses forward, and in turn how this new emphasis on ICT is influencing individuals, industries and countries as a whole.
The report revealed that, once again, the Nordics are the countries that best utilise ICT, with Sweden a non-mover at the top of the list, with Singapore similarly holding solid in second place. Finland and Norway also climbed further up the top ten, which was also populated by members of the Asian Tiger economies (Singapore, Taiwan and China) and the USA. By comparison, the UK sits in 15th position.
The ranking is decided by taking individual components that contribute to an ICT-ready environment and giving each a certain ranking, from a country’s attitude to ICT education, its usage by individuals and companies alike and, crucially, its government’s attitude to the education and use and control of ICT. Sweden is ranked highest in its laws relating to ICT; important because it eliminates the fear many companies have of working outside of these or incidents resulting from a lack of said laws. It also scores highly in the level of competition between internet and phone providers and companies, indicating that said providers see it as a key market. Its smartphone users are also keen data users; it scored the highest rank for cellular subscriptions with data, and the highest rank for individual business spending on research and development. Their education system ranks highly too, as does their government’s success rate in the promotion and use of ICT.
By contrast, the UK government’s prioritisation and promotion of ICT, use of ICT and education system achieves a lower ranking – numerous comment pieces have been circulated of late on how the next generation needs better ICT education. But while large bodies such as these aren’t prioritising ICT as highly as they could be, their businesses fair better, with a shorter average start-up time than their Swedish counterparts and good levels of R&D and company-university R&D collaboration, indicating a positive future. Its mobile phone tarrifs are often more reasonable than Sweden’s, and its mobile phone subscriptions are higher as a result with healthy data usage.
It is, of course, worth noting the massive population differences between Sweden and the UK, and subsequent difference in GDP. But Sweden has, in recent years, become the hotspot for ICT innovation, with scouts from large companies like HP and Microsoft reportedly visiting the country to hunt for the ICT entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The recent press generated by fictional ICT whizz Lisbeth Salander (and the more negative press generated by hackers such as kinpin Julian Assange) will no doubt have helped pique peoples’ interests in the potential of the Nordic nation, along with it being the birthplace of Skype and Spotify.
So from an SMB perspective, what can the findings teach UK businesses? Part of Sweden’s success comes from its businesses’ investment in R&D and their staff training programmes, as well as their capacity for innovation and the extent to which their businesses use the internet, all of which provide a perfect environment for understanding the evolution of the digital landscape. Institutions that are slow to adopt and adapt their attitudes to new technologies will inevitably miss out on the next wave of digital innovation, which will have a knock-on effect on the global competitiveness of the country.
In 2012, despite troubling financial forecasts, it’s in the favour of both the governments and the business owners of countries wishing to assert their dominance on the world stage to invest in ICT.