A digital state
Singapore, the UK, New Zealand, UAE, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan and Israel are the world’s digital elite nations with high levels of digital development and a fast rate of digital evolution – along with strong government backing, according to the Digital Evolution Index 2017 from Fletcher School at Tufts University and Mastercard.
And state support is a crucial ingredient. “While some may believe true innovation happens when government gets out of the way, the stand-out countries of the DEI suggest there is, in fact, a significant role for the state to play in facilitating and fostering the digital economy,” says the report.
The researchers cite Estonia as the outstanding example, with the government having embarked on a national project to become a technology leader at the turn of the century. Now, government officials list their email and mobile numbers online. Paying for car parking by text was common 15 years ago. First-grade children learn to code. Governance is entirely paperless.
“All documents are online, and everything is backed up in the cloud,” the report says. “If needed to, Estonians could all move to a new continent, boot up, and reconstitute Estonia exactly as it is.”
Plus there’s Estonia’s e-residency programme. Foreign nationals can become an Estonian digital citizen, able to register a company, file taxes and use all digital services available to citizens – but without the passport.
The Singapore government is busy harnessing public data to create a ‘Virtual Singapore’, developing an online platform to map out the performance of the city-state in real time. It will, for example, be possible to look at how diseases might spread in an epidemic, or how traffic reacts to roadworks
In the UAE, the Smart Dubai agency is executing a plan to transform services and society under the government’s UAE Vision 2021 innovation strategy targeting core sectors such as 3D printing, nanotechnology, semiconductors, artificial intelligence, software and smart cities.
brand-e: Fletcher School/Mastercard are slow coming onboard this trend – back in 2013 they could have turned to Mariana Mazzucato's excellent The Entrepreneurial State which effectively debunks the myth of a lumbering state versus a dynamic private sector.
Image: Digital Evolution Index