Australia’s communications technology profile has been flagged as a key contributing factor to the country’s slide in the latest international digital competitiveness rankings collated by Switzerland’s IMD World Competitiveness Center.
Australia slipped one place to 14 in the 2019 IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking, which assesses the digital competitiveness of 63 nations. Australia’s ranking in 2018 came in at 13, while in 2015, the country was ranked ninth overall.
Key weaknesses contributing to Australia’s ranking fall included business agility, technology skills and communications technology, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), which is the Australian partner of the IMD World Competitive Center.
The ranking system rates national performance in three areas: knowledge, technology and future readiness, with further sub-factors considered under each of these elements, including communications technology and internet bandwidth speed.
CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento said that in the technology area, Australia’s communications technology subcategory ranking remained poor, at 54. Australia’s internet bandwidth speed subcategory ranking in the latest report, meanwhile, was 38.
Cilento suggested the results showed Australia had more work to do if it is to keep pace with other economies.
“The results highlight that we need a broader national community discussion around the importance of R&D, investment in technology, and tech skills and how the benefits of these flow back to the community,” she said.
By contrast, New Zealand’s communications technology subcategory ranking came in at 27, although the country’s overall digital competitiveness ranking was 18, one up from the previous year’s ranking, but four places lower than its ranking in 2017. In terms of internet bandwidth speed, New Zealand outstripped Australia, coming in at number 20.
According to Cilento, another area of concern for Australia is the development of tech skills.
“While the Australian community has an appetite for new technology with a high uptake of smartphones and tablets, ranking ninth and third respectively, we don’t rank well in terms of higher technical skills,” Cilento said. “Australia ranked 44 on digital/technological skills and employee training, and 53 on graduates in sciences.”
There were some bright spots for Australia too, according to Cilento, who highlighted factors such as flow of international students, country credit rating, tablet possession and e-government – all areas where Australia was ranked among the top five countries globally.
Globally, the top five ranking countries in the 2019 IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking were United States, in the number one spot, followed by Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland. These remained unchanged from the previous year’s ranking.