Is your country a Digital Riser? ESCP study reveals surprising results

While countries like the USA and Sweden may be losing their position as digital champions, the Philippines and Singapore have both been labelled a digital riser that is capable of taking on the competitive technology landscape.

The European Center for Digital Competitiveness found that mature digital hubs are facing new and dynamic competition from around the world.

“We are in the middle of a digital revolution that is very likely being accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Professor Philip Meissner of the European Center for Digital Competitiveness by ESCP Business School in Berlin.

The ESCP’s Digital Riser Report 2020 revealed that the Philippines was one of the top Digital Risers in the world due to the country showing strong digital transformation results encouraged by Government policies like the Innovate Start-up Act and Start-up Venture Fund.

Amongst the other top risers in Asia include South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.

Digital Riser Rankings for East Asia and the Pacific
Digital Riser Rankings for East Asia and the Pacific

The rankings were by two dimensions: ecosystem and mindset. The ecosystem dimension includes venture capital availability, cost and time to start a business, the ease of hiring foreign labour, and the skillset of graduates. While the mindset dimension focuses on digital skills among active populations, attitudes to entrepreneurial risk, workforce diversity, mobile broadband subscriptions, and companies embracing disruptive ideas.

Dropping in the rankings were India, Vietnam and New Zealand, which declined in the ecosystem dimension, despite their digital aspirations and future-forward plans.

The report also shed light on the two global digital superpowers, namely the United States and China. Analysis found that China has gained in digital competitiveness while the United States lost strength over the last three years. 

What makes a Digital Riser?

Top Digital Risers share one thing in common. They have displayed a deliberate and comprehensive government programme with top-level support around digitalisation and entrepreneurship. 

“The way that governments manage and navigate this transition will significantly determine how competitive and prosperous their countries will be in the decades ahead,” said Professor Meissner.

Interestingly, country size is not a limiting factor. The report saw countries of all sizes enhancing their digital competitiveness in the short to medium term by taking effective measures like emphasising the importance of digital education, encouraging entrepreneurship and making huge investments in digitalisation.

Digital Riser Rankings for South Asia
Digital Riser Rankings for South Asia

“While the top Digital Risers come in very different sizes and have their unique economic histories, there’s a lot that governments can learn from them,” said Dr Christian Poensgen from the ESCP.

Breaking down the commonalities in top Digital Risers, Dr Poensgen identified that they tend to emphasise the importance of digital education like Indonesia’s institutions that seek to build a strong tech talent pool in which the Government invested US$7.7 million to provide certifications to 20,000 digital talents.

Next, he identified that huge investments in digitalisation are common, as countries like Thailand announced a  $570m venture fund for startups in ten supported industries, including digital, next generation cars and smart electronics.

And finally, a digital riser shows commitment to entrepreneurship, with many following the example of China’s government, which has made it a focal point of the ‘Chinese Dream’.

The Digital Riser Report was published for the first time this year, and will now be distributed annually, so it will be interesting to see if any of the countries that ranked low this year will rise up in 2021.

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