The ‘truth’ is, Ireland needs to be more e-ready


17 Jun 2009

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Ireland has moved up to 18th position from its 21st ranking last year in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global ranking of countries that are e-ready. But this is not a cause for rejoicing. Lack of government vision and low broadband uptake are damaging progress.

Ireland’s e-readiness score actually dropped from 8.03 points last year to 7.84.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s IBM-sponsored report, a confluence of factors led to a shuffling of places in the rankings table. Namely, emerging markets continue to rack up the biggest advances in terms of connectivity, and government digital strategies in these emerging markets are bearing fruit – Mexico, Jordan and Vietnam have made substantial progress in making digital channels available to citizens.

Many countries’ economic stimulus packages – particularly in rich countries hit hardest by the recession – include large-scale ICT packages.

Denmark has reclaimed the world’s e-readiness leadership in 2009, a position it relinquished to the US last year. Other north European countries such as Sweden (2nd), the Netherlands (3rd) and Norway (4th) – having, among other attributes, high levels of ICT usage – have reaffirmed their places among the top 10 e-readiness countries or, in the case of Norway, have advanced into this tier.

Meanwhile, the US (5th) and UK (13th), whose business environments have been hit particularly hard in the past year, have fallen a few rungs.

The falls have been particularly precipitous in the markets worst hit by the crisis – the UK’s score dropped by 1.58 points over last year – a nearly 20pc decline – and countries such as the US, Austria (14th) and Ireland (18th) lost nearly a full point (declines of roughly 10pc).

According to IBM, a country’s ‘e-readiness’ is a measure of how amenable their market is to internet-based opportunities. A collection of factors, including literacy, education, internet experience, government policy, entrepreneurial attitude, and innovation, are used to calculate these scores. Increasingly, it is also about how individuals and businesses consume digital goods and services.

Ireland has made a lot of progress in ‘connectivity’ since 2008, but broadband penetration and internet user penetration still remain relatively low. Other areas for improvement include government policy and vision, where Ireland remains below the northern European average for most indicators.

Globally, the scores of all but nine of the 70 countries in the 2009 study declined. The introduction of tighter criteria in the measuring of ‘consumer and business adoption’ has had a mitigated effect on Ireland’s overall score.

“More than ever before, 2009 will in hindsight be seen as ‘the year of truth’,” said Peter Korsten, global leader of the IBM Institute for Business Value.

“Those countries that invest aggressively, competitively and wisely in ramping up connectedness and usage of the internet, and that create and drive innovative content and services, will reap the benefits for many, many years to come.”

By John Kennedy

This story is part of the Digital 21 campaign to encourage Ireland to develop a National Digital Development Plan, ensuring the country and its economy are strategically well placed to thrive in the 21st century. For more stories, and to add your comments, visit www.digital21.ie