I used to enjoy walking the streets of the hot cities of Southeast Asia. This was in 2006-12, when I traveled to Asia a lot, then lived in Manila, Philippines for three years.

Stifling humidity, heat and dust, traffic and other noise, plenty of fetid smells all assaulting your senses while deep poverty assaulted your sensibility continuously. I loved it.

I saw and experienced a dynamism in this part of the world that I had felt nowhere else. Midtown Manhattan comes close. But the developing worlds of Asia have not only that characteristic striving found in New York, but also a manic struggle for raw survival that suffuses most levels of these societies.

Converting Experiences into Data

My constant thought was that these human beehives would ultimately produce dramatic progress, and that there must be a way to measure this. Acting upon the belief that an aggressive, non-malignant use of IT is the surest way to socioeconomic progress, I started to seek data about technology deployment by individual countries. I figured there must be other regions of the world that were as dynamic (or more so) than what I was seeing in Asia, as well as nations and regions that were less dyanmic.

I also figured that measuring technology use was only one piece of the puzzle. Huge income disparities and bad governments are great impediments to progress, and there's no shortage of either in southern Asia. I needed to account for them.

But I inevitably felt time slow down dramatically when I'd return to the relative torpor of the United States, while witnessing increasing disparity and troubling governmental activity in my own country. I was sure there was a way to contrast the frenzied activity I was seeing in those literal Asian hotspots with the relative coolness found back home.

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place once I realized that IT at all levels costs about the same everywhere. So $1,000 or $1 million spent in a developing country with an average per-person income of $2,500 would represent a much greater commitment than the same amount spent in a country with an average per-person income of $50,000.

The Tau Index & Institute

Thus, by factoring numerous technology and social factors into one big formula, then adjusting the formula for local income, I came up with the Tau Index in 2010. The index is named after the Greek letter “T” to represent dynamism and similar qualities as physicists and mathematicians use it, and to represent life itself as ancient societies used it.

The Tau Index measures the relative dynamism – or vigor – of individual nations in their commitment to IT. Technology factors include Internet connectivity and bandwidth, datacenter deployments, and the vibrancy of local tech communities.

Socioeconomic factors include income disparity, corruption, human development, and cost of living. All of the raw data comes from publicly available resources such as the World Bank, International Telecommunications Union, and United Nations. We are considering whether to add our own privately conducted research into the mix. The method and formulas are all uniquely ours.

By its nature, the Tau Index significantly levels the playing field for developing nations. It doesn't follow the usual ranking formulas that invariably show richer nations on top, poorer nations on the bottom. But its balanced nature does reward the most committed developed nations with high rankings as well. If you're rich and fit, you'll do well. If you're rich and flabby, you won't.

In similar fashion, the least committed developing nations will score very poorly in this index. Through our method, we are able to illustrate vast differences among nations in any particular region and across all income levels.

Branching Out

A small group of colleagues works with me to make this research useful. We created the Tau Institute, with an office in Manila. I subsequently opened an office in Illinois in 2013 after I returned to the US.

I serve as Executive Director of the institute. I wear other hats (as Director of Research at Altoros, Conference Chair of Cloud Expo, Co-Chair of DCD Converged, and Co-Chair of the Big Data World Forum), giving the institute the use of numerous other offices throughout the world. We also engage a panel of colleagues from just about everywhere.

We now have five separate indices, several dozen measurement fields and more than 50,000 datapoints on 108 nations. There are innumerable nuances to be found in the research, with the overarching notion that the relative dynamism of a nation should influence the amount of foreign investment it receives, the level of startup and venture activity, and its potential for broad socioeconomic progress.

The Original Tau Index: 2011

The first official Tau Index dates to January 2011. It relied heavily on technology factors, little on socioeconomic factors, and used rougher measures than we use today. The Top 25 nations in this inaugural index were:

  1. Bangladesh
  2. Ukraine
  3. Morocco
  4. Egypt
  5. Hungary
  6. Malaysia
  7. Bulgaria
  8. Senegal
  9. Czech Republic
  10. Vietnam
  11. South Korea
  12. Pakistan
  13. Romania
  14. Saudi Arabia
  15. Poland
  16. Thailand
  17. India
  18. Honduras
  19. Slovakia
  20. South Africa
  21. Kenya
  22. Philippines
  23. Tunisia
  24. Iran
  25. Russia
The index was published in Manila, and featured in one of the city's leading newspapers:


Update: 2013

After discussing things with people at a few big NGOs, I realized we needed to do a more nuanced job in developing an index that showed the relative strength of developed nations as well. Our second official Index publication came in January 2013, with a vastly revised leader roster:

  1. South Korea
  2. Estonia
  3. New Zealand
  4. Netherlands
  5. Finland
  6. Denmark
  7. Sweden
  8. Vietnam
  9. UK
  10. Lithuania
  11. Germany
  12. Taiwan
  13. Canada
  14. Poland
  15. Hong Kong
  16. Japan
  17. Bulgaria
  18. Hungary
  19. Belgium
  20. Australia
  21. Switzerland
  22. Slovenia
  23. Portugal
  24. Austria
  25. Chile

By this time, we had analyzed 104 countries and were able to offer indices by region and by income tier. This gave us the ability to see which countries were performing relatively well in Africa, for example, or among nations that had similar per-person GDPs.

We also created a “raw” index that focused solely on technology factors and did not take socioeconomic factors into account. We've since renamed this our Tau Potential Index (TPI); it shows which nations have the most dynamic IT environments, which could hypothetically enable these nations to overcome their (often considerable) socioeconomic challenges along the way.

Our raw index leaders in 2013 were:

  1. Vietnam
  2. Kenya
  3. Uganda
  4. Tanzania
  5. Ukraine
  6. Ethiopia
  7. Nigeria
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Romania
  10. Morocco
  11. Madagascar
  12. Mongolia
  13. Senegal
  14. Serbia
  15. Egypt
  16. Malawi
  17. Lithuania
  18. China
  19. Sudan
  20. Philippines
  21. Hungary
  22. Ghana
  23. Mozambique
  24. South Korea
  25. Estonia

Update: 2015

We made continuing progress in ensuing two years. Our January 2015 rankings were able to be presented in five separate indices.

The first of the new innovations was conceived as we looked over the results of our rankings in 2011 and 2013. We noticed that many of our leaders in 2011and our raw leaders in 2013 had experienced serious social disruptions, up to and including government overthrows.

We're not the only organization to contemplate the notion of Facebook or Twitter Revolutions. No one has the data to say unequivocally that technology development causes disruption, but we do see a correlation between the two in many developing nations.

So in 2015 we produced the first Goldilocks Index (GI). It showed which nations were too hot, which were too cold, and which were just right.

Goldilocks countries come from the median level of our raw index (now called the Tau Potential Index). This list included:

  1. Poland
  2. Slovakia
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Croatia
  5. Latvia
  6. Slovenia
  7. Portugal
  8. Jordan
  9. Ecuador
  10. Jamaica
  11. Malaysia
Sri Lanka

Meanwhile, our January 2015 Tau Index rankings looked like this:

  1. Denmark
  2. Estonia
  3. Netherlands
  4. New Zealand
  5. Georgia
  6. Finland
  7. Sweden
  8. South Korea
  9. UK
  10. Hungary
  11. Latvia
  12. Japan
  13. Uruguay
  14. Lithuania
  15. Germany
  16. Poland
  17. Canada
  18. Switzerland
  19. Bulgaria
  20. Belgium
  21. Armenia
  22. Slovenia
  23. Taiwan
  24. Portugal
  25. France

Our Tau Potential Index looked like this:

  1. Vietnam
  2. Kenya
  3. Uganda
  4. Nepal
  5. Malawi
  6. Ukraine
  7. Tanzania
  8. Madagascar
  9. Armenia
  10. Ethiopia
  11. Belarus
  12. Senegal
  13. Georgia
  14. India
  15. Romania
  16. Bangladesh
  17. Pakistan
  18. Morocco
  19. Hungary
  20. Serbia
  21. Bulgaria
  22. Albania
  23. China
  24. Egypt
  25. Latvia
Update: Today

We're now in a mad dash to get all of our data updated for our January 2017 rankings. We've also developed indices that show how dynamic each nation's IT commitment is in real time, as well as which countries represent the largest challenges to organizations who seek progress within them.

I write about our rankings as a public service and way to start conversations. The leaders lists at first glance can appear to be comparisons of apples to oranges to guavas, so we often write lengthy reports about each nation, groups of nations, regions, and income tiers. We're not hesitant to integrate other data points or adjust our factors in search of specific insights.

If you'd like to learn more, please visit www.TauInstitute.com, contact me here at LinkedIn, find me on Twitter @IoT2040, or via email at rss (at) tauinstitute.com

Thanks for reading!



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