Australian business is falling behind its competitors in digital preparedness in a global survey of economies that found the nation dropped from 9th most competitive in 2015 to 14th this year.
The ranking, produced by the Switzerland based IMD World Competitiveness Centre, found Australian businesses rated 45 for digital agility out of the 63 countries surveyed.
Business agility includes factors such as industry’s IT integration, the concentration of robots, adoption of big data and companies’ ability to respond to opportunities.
Overall, Australia’s strongest showing was in attracting foreign students and the nation's credit rating, which were both first globally, and in e-government which saw the country ranked second behind Denmark.
The fourteenth place saw Australia fall behind Taiwan, the UAE and South Korea, all of which jumped up the rankings.
Leading the list were the US, Singapore, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland which were unchanged on the previous year.
Regionally, Singapore led the pack followed by Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan with New Zealand being slightly edged out by Australia in overall rankings. China and Japan were seventh and eighth in the Asia-Pacific group and 22nd and 23rd globally.
Along with the private sector’s lack of digital agility, Australia’s score was pulled down by ranking 44th in digital and technological skills along with 29th in training and education.
Tellingly, Australia ranked 38th for internet bandwidth speed.
In its report, the Center said the top five share a common thread in terms of their focus on knowledge generation, but each have a different approach.
The United States and Sweden follow a balanced approach between knowledge generation, the creation of a supportive environment for technology development and a readiness to adopt innovation while Singapore, Denmark and Switzerland give priority to one or two factors.
Professor Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center said: “In the midst of uncertainty and a fluid global situation, it seems that business and societies that are agile correlate strongly with the IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking. Knowledge also remains of paramount importance for the digital performance of different economies.”
The local aspect of the report was prepared by the Committee for Economic Development, Australia (CEDA).
CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento said the results showed Australia had more work to do if it is to keep pace with other economies.
“The results highlight that we need a broader national community discussion around the importance of R&D, investment in technology, and tech skills and how the benefits of these flow back to the community.
“While the Australian community has an appetite for new technology with a high uptake of smartphones and tablets, ranking ninth and third respectively, we don’t rank well in terms of higher technical skills,” she said.
“Australia ranked 44 on digital/technological skills and employee training, and 53 on graduates in sciences.
“We also need to be aware that economies in our region are making big gains in digital competitiveness with Hong Kong and South Korea entering the top 10 while Taiwan and China have moved up to 13 and 22 respectively from 16 and 30.
“Our Asia Pacific neighbours are making serious investments into skills and technology infrastructure, both areas where we have dropped off in key areas, and we need to ensure we keep pace. These are the drivers of future competitiveness and opportunity.
“We need a stronger national conversation around how R&D and adoption by business of new technology can deliver broader opportunities and benefits to the community.
“In reality R&D and investment in technology will underpin Australia’s future prosperity,” Ms Cilento concluded.