New Global Index Defines What Makes Digital Economies More Trusted and ResilientDecember 6, 2020 | Dubai, UAE
- Digital Intelligence Index from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and Mastercard provides an in-depth look at the rate of technology adoption and the state of digital trust around the world
- The Middle East is emerging as a hotspot for digital demand with the UAE leading the way as the region’s digital entrepot, focusing on the implementation of smart government and cities
- The study shows that other Middle Eastern economies such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other GCC countries, have created powerful and progressive digital authorities to direct growth
The Fletcher School at Tufts University, The Graduate School of Global Affairs at Tufts University, in partnership with Mastercard, today unveiled the Digital Intelligence Index, which charts the progress countries have made in advancing their digital economies, fostering trust and integrating connectivity into the lives of billions.
Building upon earlier editions in 2014 and 2017, this year’s index paints a picture of global digital development, sheds insight on key factors driving change and momentum, and unpacks what this means for economies facing the challenges of a global pandemic and post-pandemic future.
The Middle East is emerging as a hotspot for digital demand, with nations such as the UAE leading the way. The UAE stands out as the region’s digital entrepot, followed by neighboring nations focusing on the implementation of smart government and cities — with digital social services, education, healthcare and clusters to support entrepreneurship.
Middle Eastern economies featured in this index, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, have created powerful and progressive digital authorities to direct growth. These states have outlined long-term strategic plans, supported by high levels of education, young populations and access to global talent, to diversify from energy exporting nations into digitally advanced economies.
Middle Eastern and North African economies have also made impressive progress in reducing digital inequities, bringing millions more online and empowering the previously digitally disenfranchised to join the digital economy. Improvements are being made in reducing geographic and gender disparities too, with more women and rural citizens online than ever before.
Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at The Fletcher School, said, “The pandemic may be the purest test of the world’s progress towards digitalization. We have a clearer view on how dynamic digital economies can contribute to economic resiliency during a time of unparalleled global turmoil and can be positioned for recovery and change.”
Other key findings include:
- With nearly two thirds of the world’s population online today, we are entering an ‘after access’ phase, where access alone is not enough. Aspects such as the quality of access, effective use of digital technologies, accountable institutions, robust data governance policies and fostering trust are greater factors in determining digital competitiveness and sustainability.
- Young people in emerging economies are demonstrating high levels of digital engagement, a bright spot for governments attempting to expand digitalization in their economies.
Ajay Bhalla, president, Cyber & Intelligence, Mastercard said: “Never before has there been such an acute need to understand the factors that drive digitalization and digital trust. With that knowledge, businesses and governments can work together to help all 7.6 billion people around the world benefit from the vast opportunities a digitally advanced economy can bring. Whilst much remains uncertain today, it is clear that digital success will be a key building block in our collective recovery.”
A Global Outlook on Digital Evolution and Trust
This year’s index looks at two components: Digital Evolution and Digital Trust. Digital Evolution captures an economy’s historical momentum from the physical past to the digital present. Digital Trust is the bridge that connects its journey from the digital present to an intelligent and inclusive digital future.
Mapping 95% of the world’s online population and drawing on 12 years of data, the Digital Evolution scorecard measures 160 indicators in 90 economies across four key pillars: institutional environment, demand conditions, supply conditions, and the capacity for innovation and change. These segment into four categories:
- Stand Out economies – Singapore, United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Estonia, UAE, Czech Republic, Malaysia, Lithuania– are both highly digitally advanced and exhibit high momentum. They are leaders in driving innovation, building on their existing advantages in efficient and effective ways.
- Stall Out economies – such as Sweden, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan and Canada – are mature digital economies with a high state of digital adoption despite slowing digital momentum. They tend to trade off speed for sustainability and are typically invested in expanding digital inclusion and building robust institutions.
- Break Out economies – such as China, India, Indonesia, Poland and Russia – are evolving rapidly. With such momentum and significant headroom for growth, they are often highly attractive to investors.
- Watch Out economies – such as Nigeria, Uganda, Colombia, Peru, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – have a number of infrastructure gaps. Despite this, young people are showing enthusiasm for a digital future with increased use of social media and mobile payments.
The Digital Trust scorecard measures 198 indicators in 42 of the index’s economies across four key pillars: behavior, attitudes, environment, and experience.
- Economies such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are beginning to build momentum on behavior scores, demonstrating substantial engagement on social media and other new technologies.
- Economies such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam have increasingly favorable attitudes about their digital future, buoyed by rapidly expanding digital adoption and opportunity.
- Economies with more mature approaches to digitalization and related policymaking such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark shares measures that strengthen the trust environment, such as privacy, security and accountability policies. Citizens in these countries tend to have more optimistic attitudes around the future of digitalization.
- Economies such as United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore provide citizens with a near seamless experience, delivering the holy grail of advanced infrastructure, broad access and unparalleled interaction. This experience is matched by high levels of engagement, offering these economies a clear advantage in a ‘beyond access’ future.
The link to the full report and methodology can be found here. For more information and shareable content, please visit our digital press kit.
 Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China
 China represents the economic region of mainland China, reflecting the underlying data and indicators that inform the index