Digital Riser 2021: Italy leads the digital revolution


Digital Italy is increasingly competitive on a global level: thanks to investments and good practices introduced especially in the last year, it has climbed the ranking of G7 countries, moving from last place to second place. This is what emerges from the Digital Riser Report 2021 drawn up by the European Center for Digital Competitiveness of ESCP Business School, which measures the capacity for digital transformation and the progress of 137 countries in the world over the last three years.

If within the G20, China was able to advance the most by becoming the first “Digital Riser” followed by Saudi Arabia (+169 positions), in the Group of Seven Canada, Italy and France were the most dynamic. On the contrary, between 2018 and 2020, the significant loss of ground of other global superpowers is evident, including the United States (-72 positions), Japan (-190 positions) and Germany (-176 positions), which retreated to the penultimate position in the G7.

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Despite the pandemic wake-up call, our report shows that digital technologies are still not a priority for many governments,” says Prof. Philip Meissner who leads the European Center for digital Competitiveness at the Berlin office of the international business school. “This is surprising, as how governments manage the digital transition of their economies will significantly determine how competitive and prosperous their countries will be in the decades to come.

Thus, in Europe, the two-speed transformation also highlighted in by the Digital Engagement Report 2021, published by the Center in early July. “The results, however, also reveal that change can happen quickly with the right measures,” says Christian Poensgen, who conducted the study together with Meissner.

One obvious example is Italy, which was able to move from a poor position to the top of the rankings in just twelve months thanks to bold, targeted measures proposed by the current government. The Report highlights three initiatives in particular that have marked a change of pace: the creation of the “Digital Republic,” launched by the Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition to overcome the cultural digital divide present in the Italian population, support maximum digital inclusion, and foster education on future technologies among citizens; the introduction of the Italian Startup Act, a new regulatory framework that defines a set of eligibility criteria to identify innovative startups and strengthen the startup ecosystem; and, finally, support for distance learning, entrepreneurship, and innovation (blockchain, artificial intelligence and internet of things, in particular) with substantial targeted investments.

The top Digital Risers in our study share ambitious goals for their transformation efforts and a strong focus on entrepreneurship,” concludes Professor Meissner. For example, Vietnam was the top digital riser in East Asia and the Pacific in 2021, and its goal is to have the country’s country’s digital economy to account for 30 percent of GDP by 2030.

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