Australia 'Weak' in Bridging Digital Divide

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By Athena Yenko | April 24, 2014 4:30 PM EST

Australia has fallen from 9th post to 18th place in the 2014 Global Information Technology Report.

The report ranked 148 countries based on their economic progress, reflecting their readiness to apply the benefits of information and communications technologies (ICTs). The rankings showed the ability of each country to bridge the digital divide in terms of economic and social impact.

According to the strengths and weaknesses of each country, the report aimed to highlight the rewards of using huge digital data both in public and private organizations.

"In addition to the persistent digital divide across countries, governments should also be wary of understanding, identifying and addressing potential internal digital divides so that new opportunities can be created for all and support enhanced social inclusion," Beñat Bilbao-Osorio, senior economist at the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Network, said.

Unfortunately, it found that little progress is happening across nations and the diminutive progress was practically worrisome for emerging and developing countries.   

For Australian Industry Group Chief Economist Julie Toth, Australia's decline in ranking called for the government to invest in communications infrastructure to recover its favourable ranking.

One positive step that the government shall take was by improving its broadband policy.

"Our infrastructure is still lagging behind and that indicates that we do still need something like a National Broadband Network. And we're still lagging behind on skills and I think that reflects the relatively low scores that Australia tends to get in the STEM skills area, which is science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

Even with Australia's impressive Internet security and fraud regulations, it still lagged behind in global competitiveness with its expensive internet service rendered for businesses.

"The business usage index, we're still only ranked 24th on that one and 49th on affordability. Even though we've improved on that measure, affordability and access are still issues that the regulatory environment could help with."

The Global Information Technology Report was deemed as one of the most credible reports in the industry.

"Over time, the GITR series has become one of the most respected studies of its kind. It is used extensively by policymakers and relevant stakeholders as a unique tool to identify strengths and weaknesses and to define and build national strategies for developing and better leveraging their digital potential," Soumitra Dutta, co-editor of the report, said.

Network Readiness Index Top 10

1. Finland

2. Singapore

3. Sweden

4. Netherlands

5. Norway

6. Switzerland

7. U.S.

8. Hong Kong (SAR)

9. UK

10. South Korea

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