Australia’s global competitiveness in using technology to improve our economy and support our society has deteriorated over the past 10 years.
We ranked 18th this year, down from 9th in 2004 in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which measures the ICT environment, readiness and use of technology in a society, and the impact it has on the economy and people.
The NRI is part of the WEF's Global Information Technology Report.
Other countries are clearly taking greater steps to improve their capacity to use technology with Finland ranking number one in the index, followed by Singapore, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway.
The United States ranked 7th and the United Kingdom ranked 9th. We are just in front of New Zealand, which ranked 20th.
Commenting on the results, Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive Innes Willox, said the decline meant it was important that progress is made on rolling out the NBN and creating strategies to ensure businesses are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities it creates.
“It we are to seize the opportunities enabled by broadband, we also need to urgently lift our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, especially as 75 per cent of occupations in the future will require strong STEM skills,” he said.
Australia also ranked 14th on “environment” in 2014, which gauges the friendliness of a country’s market and regulatory framework to support high levels of IT uptake and the emergence of IT-related entrepreneurship and innovation. We were ranked 8th in 2007.
The Ai Group said this was one of the key reasons why our NRI performance has worsened since 2004.
Another concern is our global ranking on intellectual property protection, which dropped from 10th in 2009 to 21st this year, the Ai Group said.
Further, our global ranking for “political and regulatory environment”, which indicates IT penetration and the safe development of business activities, worsened from 7th in 2011 to 15th in 2014.
However, there is some good news. We ranked 9th in technology “readiness”, a measurement of the degree a society is prepared to make the best use of IT. This is a significant jump from 26th in 2011, mainly due to mobile technology becoming more affordable.
The WEF report estimated that average per-minute cost of different types of mobile calls in Australia dropped significantly from US$0.46 per minute in 2008 to US$0.10 per minute in 2012. The decline in these costs in Australia is greater than has occurred in other countries, the report said.
However, Australia dropped from 10th place in 2010 to 101st place in 2014 for "fixed broadband internet affordability". This was due to average monthly subscription charges from these services (connections at downstream speeds of at least 256Kbps using DSL) rising from US$20.98 per month in 2008 to US$41.30 per month in 2012.
Many other countries reported smaller increases or a decline in fixed broadband internet charges, the report said. Monthly subscription charges in the United Kingdom, for instance, declined from US$22.51 per month in 2008 to US$19.68 per month in 2012. Charges in the US remained stable over the period.