“The second thing was we didn’t take everyone on the journey with us … there is a digital divide on a state level.”
The rankings are based on categories such as how basic human needs are met, business and government investment, ease of doing business, human capital, start-up environment, technology adoption and technology infrastructure.
The categories are designed to encompass everything a country needs to get right to be able to participate in the digital economy.
While “basic needs” (which measures things like homelessness and crime) does not directly relate to digital technologies, if a country cannot meet the basic needs of its citizens, it will not be spending billions on digital infrastructure projects.
On a state-based level, the ACT, NSW and Victoria are miles ahead of the Northern Territory.
Comparing the Northern Territory’s score to other nations, it would rank alongside the worst performers in the world, including Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and Liberia.
The territory ranked last out of Australia’s states and territories in five of the seven categories, and was a particular outlier in the basic needs category, with poor scores around infant mortality, homicides, homelessness and life expectancy.
Regarding infant mortality, Australia has a low rate of 3.3 per 1000 live births, but in the NT this jumps to 11.5.
Mr Dawson said this divide was present in the previous report and no meaningful progress had been made in the past two years to bridge it. In fact, the homelessness rate and the homicide rate were found to have increased.
“We need to have a national strategy that goes beyond a stated aspiration,” he said.
“Digitisation can drive huge productivity benefits … The risk is [if] we don’t continue to move forward in this space.”
Overall, Australia ranks highest in the human capital (a measure of our skilled labour force) and basic needs categories, coming in 6th and 7th out of 146.
The country’s performance was weighed down overall by pandemic-related factors, sliding from 12th to 16th for ease of business creation thanks to a lower business density post-pandemic.
The number of new businesses created in the last two years also dropped from a median of 12.3 per 1000 people to 9.1, according to Cisco.
Companies to rank above Australia included Singapore, Luxembourg, Iceland, the US and Sweden, which made up the top five. New Zealand also outperformed Australia, coming in eighth.
“There’s a lot we can learn from countries that did well,” Mr Dawson said.
“Singapore remains the top-ranked country, and they’ve been number one since the study’s inception.
“They have a government-led strategy and investment … [While] New Zealand moved up the rankings on the back of its investment in renewable energy tech.”
The top 20 countries for Digital Readiness
- United States
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom