Singapore, January 11: Rapidly digitalising India was ranked highly among “Break Out Economies” in the third edition of the Digital Evolution Scorecard developed by Tufts University’s Fletcher School in partnership with Mastercard.
Third rank Indonesia, and India, which ranks number four in momentum, have displayed increasing digital momentum suggesting the potential to rapidly digitalise for both post-COVID economic recovery and longer-term transformation.
China which leads the countries in the “Break Out Economies” group is more evolved digitally due mainly to its combination of rapidly growing demand and innovation.
“Break Out Economies” are those that are digitalising very quickly and yet have a lot of room to grow before matching those in the developed economies, such as those in Europe and in more developed Asian countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
Successful “Break Out Economies” are those that have prioritised improving mobile internet access, affordability, and quality to foster more widespread adoption. The governments of these economies have also taken steps to strengthen institutional environments and developed digital regulations. Furthermore, importance is placed in generating investments in digital enterprises, funding digital R&D, training digital talent, and leveraging digital applications to create jobs. Steps have also been taken to reduce inequities in access to digital tools across gender, class, ethnicity, and geographic boundaries.
For “Break Out Economies”, mobile Internet access has been a strong driver of momentum, and also the fastest way for getting the third of the global population that doesn’t yet have internet connectivity online. India which doubled its internet connectivity in the last four years being the best example. The country is on track to add 350 million smartphones by 2023.
However, the report suggested that mobile phones are merely the first step in unlocking the benefits of digitalisation. The current health crisis is highlighting how both top-notch access and proper tools are important parts of economic resilience in a time of heavy reliance on digital technologies. “For example, when the pandemic shut down in-person schooling in India, many children had to resort to WhatsApp to communicate with their teachers. Although the messaging app was certainly better than nothing, the limited growth of India’s digital ecosystem beyond mobile phones created major inequalities in access to essential education,” the report continued.
While investing in mobile is a great first step for economies with limited existing digital infrastructure, the authors of the study suggested that policymakers should endeavour to expand their gaze beyond simply increasing the number of mobile devices, recognising that longer-term growth will depend on the quality of internet access, the devices, and the overall consumer experience.