Milwaukee is among hundreds of places in the world that could benefit from a sharp focus on IT.
There are about 3.3 billion people in the global workforce. How many of these people work in Information Technology, and how many should?
Estimates of how many people work in IT vary, as do definitions of what a tech worker is and what a tech worker does. I've looked at definitions and numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from CompTIA (the Computer Technology Industry Association), and from IDC and other research firms.
Based on what I've seen, I'll say there are about 1 million software developers in the United States, 2 million other programmers (with the understanding that the line is blurred between these two groups), and 3 million other people working in IT services in some capacity.
The sum of 6 million represents close to 4% of the US workforce of 155 million. I'll use these numbers as the basis of discussion for this article. It's the Economy, Stupid
I've written previously about the need to develop “Q sectors” in the global economy. These are the high-end sectors of a Knowledge Economy that promise good jobs at good wages, providing a path for positive socio-economic development.
The Q sectors embrace jobs other than those in IT, everything from school teachers and professional writers, to doctors and lawyers, to investment bankers and venture capitalists. Certainly the creation of jobs in most of those professions should be encouraged in all countries. But there seems to be a natural limit for all of them (even as healthcare is likely to outpace most industries.)Yes, IT is Different
The IT industry is different. Certainly the three great stages of the Information Age – mainframes and minis, the PC and networking, the Internet and mobile – have each spawned significant new employment and aided a societal shift upward.
Now we're at the cusp of a fourth great age, with the great trends of open-source, cloud computing, big data, the IoT, blockchain, and cognitive computing coalescing into ubiquitous IT.
So the IT industry should be one that grows and grows for decades to come. I co-founded the Tau Institute a few years ago inspired by the notion that not only should the industry continue to grow rapidly, but that those nations which commit to IT aggressively will benefit mightily. This commitment runs from software technologies at all levels, through all forms of Internet connectivity, to manufacturing modern systems and deploying modern datacenters.No Limits to Growth and Potential
I view such development as limitless, rather than a zero-sum game in which some country's gain is another's loss. It's a Herculean and perhaps impossible task to hoist the world's impoverished billions to a level of comfort routinely found in developed nations. Certainly there are countless organizations and people who are trying to do this.
Our research at the Tau Institute discovers how well more than 100 nations of the world are developing their national IT infrastructures, on a relative basis.
By adjusting absolute measurements – access to the Internet, average bandwidth, income parity, levels of corruption, and dozens of other factors – to account for local incomes and costs of living, we are able to produce “pound-for-pound” rankings that offer fairminded comparisons of developed and developing nations.
We can also show which nations have the potential to develop most quickly, as well as those which may be advancing too quickly with the social disruption that can come with it. The long game here is to encourage all nations to keep pushing, to keep re-committing to IT, and to creating as high a percentage of IT-driven Q-sector jobs as possible.Things are Unequal – Really Unequal
The world's current income disparity reveals itself in a brief overview:
The United States, for example now has less than 5% of the world's population. It still maintains 23% of the world's economy.
This imbalance is not just an American phenomenon. Let's take a look at more than 100 countries in our rankings, grouped into five income tiers. There are clear differences in cultures, governments, and local conditions among the countries in each tier, but similar needs and stresses throughout.
The top tier has per-person incomes of at least $30,000 per year. Examples of countries in this group (known as Tier 1) are the US, Japan, and France.
The next two tiers have incomes between $6,000 and $30,000. Countries include South Korea, Poland, Chile in Tier 2 and Malaysia, Mexico, and Turkey in Tier 3.
The final two tiers have incomes below $6,000. Countries include Morocco, Indonesia, and Honduras in Tier 4 and Kenya, Ghana, and India in Tier 5.
The 103 nations under review here constitute almost 90% of the world's population and economy. Within these numbers:
- The first tier has 16% of the population, and control 62% of the economy.
- The next two tiers also have 16% of population, and control 19% of the economy.
- The final two tiers have 68% of the population, and control 19% of the economy.
- Remove China, and the final two tiers have 59% of the remaining population and control 9% of the remaining economy.
- Remove China and India, and the Tier 5 countries have 27% of the remaining world population and control less than 2% of the remaining economy.
- Two-thirds of the world's people live on 2% to 10% of the income of the top one-sixth.
- If we drill down into these numbers, the concentration of wealth at the top becomes even more extreme.
The situation is stark. I can't estimate how long it is sustainable, but it is certainly undesirable. So What Do We Do?
There seem to be three available approaches to the situation:
- Consider it a zero-sum game, build economic fortresses, and take the approach of medieval cities defending their walls.
- Support charitable and development efforts of the hundreds of major NGOs and foundations worldwide that address the problems of the developing world.
- Develop and encourage education, training, and investment to create as many Q-sector jobs as possible to advance all societies socio-economically, each at its own relative pace.
I'm producing no revelations here. Clearly, all three approaches are being taken today, and arguments are fierce as to what's the best approach as all of humanity wrestles with this real-world, gigantic, perhaps inescapable Prisoner's Dilemma.
But I would say that all of us in the technology business can perhaps best serve our industry and the world by focusing on how our software and hardware innovations can best be propagated to the corners of the world. Balance Training and Jobs
The same holds true for developed countries. No reason to retrain former manufacturing workers or educate young people about IT if their won't be new jobs. The same desperation runs deep in the hearts of all unemployable people everywhere, whether in Dar es Salaam or Milwaukee.
Yet because of the relative approach we take in our research, we don't expect to create the same percentage IT jobs in a Tier 4 or 5 economy as we would in a highly developed one.
This point seems intuitive, but is routinely ignored by every other economic ranking system I've seen. Traditional rankings are nothing more than compilations of wealthy countries on top and poor countries at the bottom. It's much more important to know:
Deriving Optimal Goals
- How are the countries of the world doing compared to their regional and economic peers?
- How dynamic are their technology ecosystems, and therefore how well can we expect them to grow?
- What are optimum goals for IT job creation, given current economic conditions?
To ensure a measure of sanity in our rankings, I created a nation called Perfectland, which has the optimum balance of population, income, and overall development. When deriving our formulas, Perfect Land should win the overall rankings and rank somewhere in the middle as far as raw dynamism.
We've said for our analysis that the US has 4% of its jobs in the IT sector. This implies that Perfectland might have IT employment of 5% of its total population.
With this in mind, we can then derive reasonable IT-driven, Q-sector targets for each of the nations in our research. Well-developed countries would have targets in the 4-5% range.
Less-developed nations would have more modest, more reachable targets based on their scoring in our existing rankings. A goal of even 1% could be transformative for many nations.
We need to do a lot of calculation and analysis to produce ideal targets. But we cannot just do training for training's sake. Racking up numbers in terms of students served or courses delivered is an incomplete solution.
So, the plan is to:
- Select a few countries to develop IT-driven education and training programs
- Focus on a small number of key software technologies at each level of the modern software stack.
- Coordinate with investors, NGOs, and governments to achieve that critical balance between workforce skills and job opportunities.
With the cooperation of interested parties, jobs can be developed in software startups, enterprise IT in all industries, IoT and Manufacturing 4.0 hardware, and the enormous number of datacenters the world will need as data continues to grow rapidly.
Perhaps we will be able to contribute to improving the world, making it less unequal, in ways that benefit everyone. Over time, we will also be able to answer the question I posed in this article's title: how many people should work in IT?
The Sharing Economy is bunk. It is not transformative but rather just the latest wrinkle in the modern service-based economy.
In the case of Uber and its competitors, it brings an unenlightened piecework mentality to the local-transportation business while absolving its owners from responsibility for its employees. In the case of AirBNB and its competitors, it brings an unnatural upward skewing to residential real-estate prices while absolving its owners from responsibility for its accommodations. Focus on the Q Sectors
It's better that we focus our efforts on using modern Information Technology to improve existing businesses and organizations in the traditional sectors of our economies. In doing so, we will create new and better job opportunities in the emerging, transformative “Q sectors” of our economies instead of simply degrading wages and jobs in the service sector.
The Q sectors are known as the quaternary and quinary sectors in economics-speak. That simply means “fourth” and “fifth,” following the traditional primary (agriculture and extraction), secondary (manufacturing), and tertiary (services) nomenclature.
The quaternary (fourth) sector describes the knowledge-based part of the economy, and includes software development and most other traditional IT jobs. The fifth (quinary) sector is sometimes thought of as a “gold-collar” sector and includes software architects, Big Data analysts, and an emerging generation of data-savvy, multi-skilled managers and executives. Restore Upward Mobility
The onset of manufacturing vastly increased societal wealth, and re-concentrated it. Though its initial horrors led to reforms, in the end it provided much higher wages for families than the labor of the farm. Societies that industrialized become the wealthy ones and formed the domineering economic centers of the world to this day. Industrialization gave us the concept of upward mobility.
The onset of service-focused economies, powered by the Information Age and Information Technology, has served to increase the gap in wealth from haves and have-nots. But where manufacturing jobs follow a uniform, steadily increasing wage and prestige scale, the service economy has spawned everything from low-paid Macjobs to Wall Street trough-feeding.
Creation of the Q sectors promises to restore the hope of upward mobility. The high end remains spectacular as with the service sector, to be sure – there's a mad quest on for Data Scientists at the moment, for example – but the lower end still represents good opportunities that pay well.
With enough people pulling in the same direction, we should be able to create millions of jobs globally in areas such as network administration, system maintenance, and QA, jobs that can be obtained by people with a general education backed by some specific training and certification. There should be millions of programming jobs as well, jobs that require an interest in languages and frameworks more than they require formal education. A Look at Numbers
We've reviewed the percentages of each of the traditional three sectors within the 108 nations we cover in our research at the Tau Institute. Generally speaking, the wealthier economies will lead the tertiary sector, the poorer countries will be most heavily centered on the primary sector, and there will be a lot of variety in between them.
A couple of examples illustrate the point: Ghana's primary-secondary-tertiary economy sector percentages are 22-28-50 compared to 2-21-78 for the United States. The US has a per-person income that is more than 28 times
that of Ghana. Closer to home, Canada's percentages are 2-28-70 and its per-person income is more than 80% that of the US.
We do our IT rankings based on relative progress, not absolute achievement. This provides the developing nations of the world, such as Ghana, a much more fair-minded view of technology progress, in our view. It's like a pound-for-pound ranking for national economies. Measuring Relative Progress
Our formulas, critically, measure dynamism, ie, how quickly a nation’s technology focus is progressing. Some countries with similar per-person incomes are moving much more dramatically upward than others in their technology adoption, and we think these are the countries that will progress socioeconomically more quickly over time.
It seems a logical next step to state that the development of employment in the Q sectors will quicken progress for countries at all level of development.
It's hard to get good, consistent data for these categories, so we can't create a Q-sector development ranking just yet. However, we can
set goals for each nation and outline steps to reach those goals. By using our current data about the relative level of a nation's IT activity,we can set specific, nation-by-nation goals for the ideal number of software developers and traditional IT jobs, as well as the smaller number of top-end quinary-sector jobs. We can also measure their progress, and follow any correlation between such progress and socioeconomic development.
We can also integrate our existing formulas relating to relative technological progress with available data about percentages of national economies throughout the three traditional sectors. In doing so, we can see which nations are relatively primed for Q-sector development.
The numbers won't lie, but politicians do, so there is always an assumed challenge in getting countries with malignant governments and/or toxic political environments to reach their potential. If only we had all the world's leaders on speed dial or at least had them as 1st-degree LinkedIn connections. Some Preliminary Leaders
Our preliminary calculations make a strong case for Hungary as the leader among all nations for quick Q-sector development and progress. Others that zoom into focus include Slovakia, Bangladesh, Trinidad & Tobago, and Mauritius.
India jumps off the page among large nations. This may seem to be no surprise, but is a bit of one to us, as India has not scored well in our traditional rankings over the years despite its well-known technology reputation.
Greece also looks good, if it can get out of its own way and focus on its strengths. Jordan looks strong relative to the Middle East, as it does in our traditional rankings. We have much more work to do before issuing formal rankings.
Taking this approach, we know that there should be a relatively higher number of Q-sector jobs in Germany than in Thailand, but we can watch to see which developing nations are progressing most quickly as well as how developed nations are progressing compared to their economic peers.
The End Game
The end game, which may take a century to reach or may never be reached, is a world that is in better socioeconomic balance, ie a world that has smaller disparities among nations, less violence, and no impoverished people period.
We know it can be daunting to try to achieve progress in developing nations that often lack good basic infrastructure (eg roads, utilities, ports), stable governance, or a reasonable income disparity. That's the nature of the challenge.
The reward can be seen the faces of people whose lives have been improved, in statistics that show progress, and in the knowledge that global trade and economic development does not have to be a zero-sum game and a more prosperous world will be a less chaotic and violent world.
So let's forget about transforming the world into a giant “Uber of this” and “AirBNB of that” dystopia. Let's focus on the Q sectors and make some good stuff happen.
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:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
The index was published in Manila, and featured in one of the city's leading newspapers:https://sg.news.yahoo.com/measuring-impact-innovation-strukhoff-tau-index-20110111-083841-330.htmlUpdate: 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:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
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:
- South Korea
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:
- Czech Republic
Meanwhile, our January 2015 Tau Index rankings looked like this:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
Our Tau Potential Index looked like this:
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!
There are more mobile phones in the Philippines than people. And there are a lot of people.
This is one of the amazing statistics of our current era, in which the compulsion for humans to communicate is leading us into the realm of massive data flows in an increasingly interconnected world.
The Philippine phenomenon is due in part to the presence of two dominant mobile carriers-and a third that nips strongly at their heels-who charge extra fees for texts and calls outside of their networks. About 96% of this traffic is from prepaid traffic, in which users "load" up their phones from ubiquitous small stores in increments of less than one US dollar.
Similar noteworthy statistics are found elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
- Indonesia, for example, was sending out 385 tweets per second in 2013, grabbing 7.5% of global Twitter traffic. Other strong social-media numbers have led to many there referring to their country as "the social media capital of the world." With overall wired Internet access still lacking, more than 60% of Indonesia's social traffic is mobile.
- Thailand claims 97% of its population on social media, with prepaid SIM card system like the Philippines, and easy roaming throughout neighboring countries.
The average mobile data use in Asia is more than three times that of North America, almost 20 times that of Europe, and 200 times that of Africa. As I noted above, amazing.
- Malaysia has a higher average income than most of its neighbors, and Vietnam a lower one, but both also contribute to an Asian average of more than 360MB of data use per month on mobile devices.
- Singapore is of course the great economic power of the region, with a per-person income level that now surpasses that of the United States. Singapore has among the fastest Internet access in the world and is moving toward being a Smart City through use of IoT technology.
Heat, Noise, and Startups
The hyperkinetic nature of Southeast Asian nations-the traffic, noise, masses of people, and heat can easily overwhelm on a short-term basis and grind one down over the long term-is reflected in recent economic growth through the region. Our research at the Tau Institute shows the region to be the most dynamic in the world, even as clear infrastructure problems are apparent everywhere outside of Singapore.
This energy is also reflected in a growing culture of startups and innovation. I recently attended a startup competition in Manila, which is part of a larger event called the Top 100 program.
The Top 100 program culminates in Singapore June 23-24, where 100 companies from a field of 300 among 14 Asian nations will compeete for attention from investors. The competition goes beyond Southeast Asia, with teams from India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea joining in the fun.
Much of the fun will be focused on mobile apps, because mobility is huge and apps are cool. Apps also seem to lack the barriers to entry of creating the next great piece of enterprise software. I would like to see more of an emphasis on frameworks and platforms, and a greater presence of all the open-source companies we see in the US.
I am also encouraging people to pursue innovation within their organizations. Even as I marvel at the energy and enthusiasm of the startup communities in Manila and elsewhere, the reality is that large governmental organizations and big companies are the primary employers throughout this massive region. Innovation need not be a stranger to them.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons.
Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as much as 70% of government revenue.
The doubling of Nigeria's estimated GDP was due largely to its "informal" economy, which may represent 75% of the whole thing. The country is also dependent on close to $20 billion in remittances from millions of Nigerian expats, making its economy resemble that of energy titan Mexico and non-energy titan Philippines.
The country's enormous population of more than 180 million people stands out among African nations. (South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania in contrast all have populations in the 45 to 50 million range.)
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan sits amidst a tapestry--perhaps better termed a thicket--of pronounced religious, tribal and linguistic, and geographical divisions within a big nation that's about three-quarters the size of South Africa, or half again the size of Texas or France.
Our research at the Tau Institute integrates several technological and socioeconomic measures into unique algorithms to create relative rankings, which show how well nations are doing given the resources they have, adjusted for local cost-of-living.
Nigeria ranks 76th among the 103 nations we survey, just behind Tanzania and Mexico and just ahead of Italy and Argentina. Within its region, it ranks 12thamong 22 nations surveyed; within its income tier, 10th among 21.
When we measure Nigeria's raw potential, on the other hand--discounting socioeconomic factors and emphasizing current technological development--we find Nigeria among the world's leaders. In our "Goldilocks Index" it is running hot with technology--maybe too hot. Our research shows it to be a great place for the most fearless of all risk takers.
Developing this nation presents a colossal challenge and opportunity. Nigeria is a very complex, volatile, quickly developing place.
The Overall Challenge
We address the totality of a nations' challenge by taking third-order derivatives (to measure the present, instantaneous change in a country's ICT environment) of our raw data, and re-integrating the results into population size.
By this measurement, Nigeria ranks as the 11th greatest challenge in the world, slightly greater than Kenya but less than Tanzania and much less than Cameroon and Ethiopia (to use some widely scattered examples in Africa). We haven't quantified how much it would cost per percentage point increase in development, but the challenge clearly involves hundreds of billions of dollars of investment to create significant, sustainabile change.
This news can be read as depressing or exciting, depending on whether the glass is viewed as three-quarters empty or one-quarter full.
The development, as in all nations, will be varied. Lagos State, for example, has commissions and committees dedicated to improving the region's technology and busienss climate, reminding me of Gauteng State in South Africa. Other regions of Nigeria, particularly as one moves northward, are less able at the present time to develop such efforts.
To address its challenges, Nigeria today has important technology conferences, a nascent venture capital scene, and a very large number of people (Nigerians and others) who believe in its future. The country has a unique opportunity to develop its ICT infrastructure and launch itself into the stratosphere of global economies
“The Australian economy is facing a major transformation, moving from growth led by investment in resources projects to broader-based drivers of activity in non-resources sectors.”
These words are taken from the Comprehensive Growth Strategy report presented by the Australian government at the recent G20 meeting in Brisbane. I wonder how seriously the government really takes them.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was widely criticized by his countrymen for a pedestrian, locally focused welcoming speech he gave as the host of the most powerful leaders in the world. Did he really emphasize a small, stalled health initiative of his that would tax individuals at $7 per year? Where was the sweeping vision?
The strategy presented by Mr. Abbott's government in Brisbane is full of similar pedestrian, if much more macroeconomic, talk. It aims to hit all the correct buttons when it comes to liberalizing trade, ending red tape, encouraging businesspeople large and small, and being responsible with taxpayer and investor money.
But there was no sweeping vision, and not a single mention of information technology.
More of the Same
I've heard Australians their cities are all the same; fly a few hours and you end up in essentially the same place you started. No substantial differences as one might find among, say New York, New Orleans, and Seattle.
I've also heard complaints from the Australian technology community that the country has never taken tech seriously enough, that it cannot seem to wrest itself from its reliance on natural resources. With enormous natural resources and a small population (at 25 million, barely 60% that of California), it's easy enough to see why this is true.
The “tall poppy” syndrome – cut down the tall poppy (aka hammer the nail that sticks out), Asian style, rather than encourage the individual, Western style – is also often cited as a barrier to true progress in this beautiful, pleasant nation.
Within that context lies the glaring, noisy, boisterous vision of Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN). I wrote in 2011 about the insanity of the original NBN vision, which aimed to bring gigabit fiber connectivity to 93% of the population at a cost of about $2,000 per person. (Imagine such a program in the US, with a price tag $600 billion.)
The current government headed by Mr. Abbott has scaled things back, aiming for fiber connectivity to 22% of the population and depending on a combination of existing copper and new wireless for the rest. It remains to be seen what the NBN will ultimately deliver.
Australia Ranks Well, So...
Australia, by dint of its wealth, relative income parity, low corruption, and highly developed physical infrastructure, scores well in our Tau Institute's overall rankings – which integrate several technological and socio-economic factors. The NBN initiative, which may be completed by the end of this decade, aims to make the nation very competitive in terms of bandwidth. (The US, by counter-example, has no such initiative or seeming commitment to bringing its bandwidth to a high world standard.)
But at the present time, Australia runs very cold in our Goldilocks Ranking of ICT dynamism, which focuses on technology factors alone. By this measure, it scores one of the least dynamic rankings in the world.
Should the NBN not ultimately move things in a significant way, Australia will lag in technology and economic growth, in our view. It could some day find itself as no longer a G20 country or one that's taken seriously.
...Where Do We Go From Here?
Today, the country has mostly first-world problems and seems to live without the omnipresent angst characterizing similar large, resource-rich nations such as the United States, Canada, and Russia. It's a great place to hold an event, to visit, and seemingly, to live. To an outsider, there is, in fact, enough variation in the climates and cultures of its major cities to offer several unique, good choices.
So how can the bland tone of documents such as that presented in Brisbane become more dynamic? Maybe it can't. Australia's day of reckoning may lie centuries over the horizon.
Is that good enough for its technology community? If Australia has the potential to be more than simply a good summit host – we think it does – does it aspire to be so?
The world's five greatest national IT development challenges are presented by Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Cote D'Ivoire, and Tanzania. India takes sixth place in the world and second place in Asia, followed in Asia by Pakistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Iran
Ukraine tops the list in Europe, followed by Russia, Italy, Poland, and Serbia. The greatest challenges in the Americas are offered by Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Honduras, and Ecuador (Brazil is sixth here).
These findings are a function of our ongoing research at the Tau Institute. To identify the greatest challenges, we integrate our overall rankings into our rankings of current levels of technology change, then adjust for population size.
Larger nations tend to face larger challenges, just because they have more people. Combine a large population with a relatively undeveloped infrastructure and low per-person income levels, and the countries facing the greatest challenges emerge.
We encourage people to note that our research is relative, centered upon how well nation's are doing given their current economic resources and current acceleration of technological and socioeconoic change. This point of view brings the potential of Bolivia, for example, currently a highly underveloped nation, into focus.
We don't weigh parameters in a traditional way, ie assign certain percentages to each factor and then run a straight-line calculation. Instead, we plot all of our data on a series of exponential curves, and balancing technological development against socioeconomic issues such as poverty and corruption.
In Search of Dynamism
Further analysis is done by isolating the most currently dynamic IT environments among the nations with the greatest challenges. Poland and Ukraine fall into this category, as do Tanzania, Armenia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Bolivia. These countries are on a positive course to address their current challenges.
Poland, in fact, has one of the most dynamic current IT environments in the world on a relative basis, and ranks among our Top 20 nations (among 103 surveyed) overall.
Our research can be sliced and diced in thousands of particular ways, to identify opportunities at all levels of challenge, potential, and opportunity. Our algorithms have some built-in flex that lets them be adjusted as needed by clients who wish to emphasize, augment or diminish specific or multiple factors.
For those in search of a high degree of difficulty, Cameroon may represent the ultimate challenge among the countries we survey. It ranks as the third-greatest challenge overall, but also lacks the dynamic IT development environment found in Ethiopia and Bangladesh. There are good people in Cameroon working for change, and a government commission focused on IT, but this nation could use several shots of oxygen to get its IT development (and by extension, its socio-economid development) in motion.
It's a beautiful country, with stupendous geographical and cultural diversity, and perhaps known to casual observers as a producer of good, entertaining national football (soccer) teams. Consider it to be the ultimate challenge for IT development.
I had an interesting discussion recently with a key person at the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA), a consortium based in Singapore. The group is funded by companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, HP, EMC, Equinix, NetApp, several global and regional telcos, and many others.
The ACCA, in its words, provides a forum "to collaborate on the requirements of the Asia market from within, with expertise born of local knowledge." The organization, through the activity of its members, aims to "accelerate the growth of the cloud market regionally by helping remove obstacles and leveraging opportunities."
Among its activities is the annual publication of a region-wide Cloud Readiness Index. The report integrates and weighs from several sources, in ten areas: Data privacy, international connectivity, data sovereignty, broadband quality, government regulatory environment and usage, power grid and green policy, intellectual property protection, business sophistication, and data center risk.Japan Leads The Way
Japan is the most highly ranked country among the 14 nations surveyed, followed by Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea. A middle group includes Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Rounding out the results are China, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam.
The report delves into detail about how it derived rankings in each category, what each nation is doing well and less well, and how each nation can continue to improve. Bandwidth is a big issue, something that is improving with more submarine cables (which deliver 98% of the region's bandwidth) coming online, and various national commitments to bringing broadband connectivity (as much as 100Mb) to a regional population that includes almost half of the people on earth.
It's not unexpected to see the survey's results closely follow income levels; the wealthier a nation, the more capable it should be to develop a strong IT infrastructure, and perhaps institute the freedoms of information flow and helpful governmental policies that enable continued development.
It's fun to contrast these results with the ongoing search we've been doing at the Tau Institute (which was founded in Asia). We take a relative approach, adjusting for income levels and socio-economic factors such as income disparity and perceived corruption. This tends to show less-wealthy countries as performing in a much more dynamic fashion than they appear in traditional ranking systems.Another Look at Vietnam
So, for example, Vietnam is one of the star performers in our research. It ranks among the world's top 20 nations on a relative basis, having developed a robust IT infrastructure given its per-person income, which ranks 86thamong the 100+ nations we survey.
We also have Japan and South Korea in our global top 20, however, with South Korea slightly head, showing how tremendously well these nations have developed their IT, using their ample economic resources wisely.
China and Indonesia lag in our rankings as they do in the Cloud Readiness Index. India performs better in our ranking than with the Cloud Readiness Index, Thailand performs worse, with the Philippines and Malaysia doing well but not spectacularly so.Several Measures
We have developed several different views of our data, measuring not only overall dynamics, but also technology-centric potential; a "Goldilocks Index" that shows whether a nation is too hot, too cool, or just right; an overall challenge index; and a look at what we call instantaneous dynamism, ie, how rapidly is each nation developing at the present moment.
That said, it's nice to see the amount of data and work that's gone into the Cloud Readiness Index. I would urge people in business, government, and NGOs to download the full report
from the ACCA site - it's free of charge - as a way of learning a lot about what's going on in Asia.
With a strong infrastructure and solid policies in place, these nations can start to benefit mightily from learning more about cloud computing and how to design and deploy modern applications and services on a modern architecture.
Each of the G20 member countries outlined a Comprehensive Growth Strategy at the recent G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia. One of the more aggressive plans comes from Brazil, which has pledged to train 12 million young people in technical areas by 2018.
The program is called Pronatec, and is administered by the Ministries of Labor and Education jointly with local councils. The program has actually been in effect since 2011, already reaching 8 million students, according to the report. It targets an additional 4 million students over the next four years. Its cost was listed as more than US$6 billion.
Pronatec is focused on many technical areas, including manufacturing, the chemical industry, and construction. It is designed to complement other job training programs in Brazil, one of which has been in existence since 1991 and is focused on serving tens of millions of rural citizens.
The Overall Challenge
Brazil's size and population ensure that its development challenges remain formidable. It land area is larger than that of the continental United States -- its vast Amazon rain forest covers 40% of that area - and its population of more than 200 million is about two-thirds that of the US.
Our research at the Tau Institute shows the challenge facing Brazil to develop its ICT environment to be in the middle of the pack globally. It is roughly in the same boat with its regional sibling Mexico, and with Thailand a continent away.
Subjectively speaking, this result surprises me. I've been critical of Brazil's standing within our rankings, thinking that given the vast attention its received as a BRIC nation and its foreign direct investment of more than $600 billion annually that it should perform even better.
Go For It
It's heartening to see its long-running commitment to technical development. But we think the country would benefit further from explicit commitments to building its underlying ICT infrastructure, to improve such key metrics as Internet access rates and average connection speed.
If the country can increase its commitment to ICT more explicitly - and its G20 report listed a commitment to telco only of just $1.27 billion - perhaps the country will, in fact, emerge as a true economic giant some day. As of now, it ranks seventh in the world, slightly ahead of Russia and slightly behind the UK.
An aggressive, explicit commitment to ICT will, we believe, decrease the country's still-high level of income disparity, and will increase its government transparency will increase, thus also lowering an accompanying perception of corruption.
There is a network effect to improving a nation's ICT ecosystem, and Brazil could benefit more than any other nation in the Americas from a commitment to ICT that matches its commitment to technical education.
India defies simple explanations and solutions. Yet its government, newly energized under recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, presented a Comprehensive Growth Strategy document at the recent G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia that includes a few sweeping general programs designed to contribute significantly to the G20's stated goal of creating US$1.5 trillion in additional wealth within its membership.
It's the sort of report that should have received more notice at a two-day summit that ended up focusing more on pesky geo-politics than its stated focus of economic and societal development.
Given is success over the past decade in building exported IT services and products to a level of $86 billion, India's strategy as presented to the G20 outlines several programs that directly and indirectly involve the use of advanced information technology:
- Development of 100 Smart Cities, comprising new satellites of major metropolitan areas an upgraded mid-sized cities, with more than $1 billion earmarked in the coming year
- Expanding its Digital India program with an investment of about $80 million
- Providing training in IT skills through its National Rural Internet and Technology Mission
- Setting up a National Industrial Corridor Authority "with Smart Cities linked to transport connectivity, which will be a cornerstone of the strategy to drive India's growth in manufacturing and urbanization."
- Create five more Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses
- Create an "investor-friendly" eBiz platform and ecosystem, as well as a new e-Visa program at nine of its international airports
- Allow new single-person companies to be created at a very low cost
Then there's the "Make in India" program, which has identified 25 different sectors that encourage foreign investment. Those of us who still remember the closed India business environment from a generation ago cannot help but be impressed with how much the nation has changed, and is continuing to change, in this area.
The Make in India initiative promises a prompt response to investor inquiries. It also plans to reach domestic companies who have "leadership in innovation and new technology" for the purpose of "turning them into global champions. The focus will be on promoting green and advanced manufacturing."Challenges
Our research at the Tau Institute shows that India lags a bit in the dynamism of its IT infrastructure. This can be explained by an enormous population of 1.25 billion, with hundreds of millions still in poverty. The challenge is enormous.
Even so, India ranks 62nd out of the 103 nations we survey overall, ahead of Greece, Mexico, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa, and Nigeria, for example. In our Goldilocks measurement - calculated to see which nations are running too hot, too cold, or just right - India is running as optimally as any nation.
The overall challenge facing India's leaders - a calculation we make by measuring instantaneous change integrated into population size - is huge, among the world's top 10 and greater than the overall challenge facing Nigeria, for example.
The heat, noise, and traffic encountered in urban India can be paralyzing and demoralizing to both the relatively soft Western visitor and hardened native alike. India's centralized government in northern New Delhi has been seen as a major impediment to growth, particularly among in the more-vibrant Mumbai and Pune, and southern technology centers such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai.
So a nice government document presented alongside other nice government documents from other big nations may not impress everyone. But we see progress and hope for the world's largest democracy, and will keep tabs in particular on how the Make in India and Smart Cities programs play out.
As always, we are able to create deep, custom looks at our findings for India as with all the 103 nations we survey.