Helen is a social innovation specialist and the brainchild behind digital telco Telefonica's acclaimed Think Big program. She works in globa Helen is a social innovation specialist and the brainchild behind digital telco Telefonica's acclaimed Think Big program. She works in global public engagement for the company and has a long-standing background in rolling out dynamic corporate social investment programs
We all know that our lives are becoming more digital by the day.
We can see it with our own eyes: We order an Uber and do our banking via an app, share our lives on Instagram and book hospital appointments online.
But this is all anecdotal – there’s not yet been a good way to understand the extent to which our lives are becoming digitalized, and what the implications of this digitization might be.
Telefonica just launched its Index on Digital Life, a weighty piece of research mapping out where 34 countries stand in terms of offering their citizens a good digital life.
The Index was created with world-leading scholars, who are acclaimed for their peer-reviewed methodology and work in the field of entrepreneurship.
Unlike other directories, many of which rely heavily on the state of a country’s infrastructure, the Index on Digital Life measures additional, broader factors that can be categorized into three areas:
- Digital Openness: How free and open the internet is
- Digital Entrepreneurship: Whether people are digitally literate and businesses set up to innovate through digital
- Digital Confidence: Rates of digital adoption and security and privacy
This is why the Index is so interesting
It doesn’t just look at tech – it looks at the conditions that allow citizens of a given society to use digital technology to improve their lives. After all, the greatest tech in the world is next to useless if you don’t have the skills or freedom to use it.
The index threw up a few surprises. While the US predictably tops the Index, it’s Australia, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Israel and the UK that join the countries outperforming on the quality of digital life within their country (relative to GPD per capita).
It also showed that Latin American countries rank particularly highly for entrepreneurship. In fact, Colombia and Chile fall in the top eight performing countries relative to GDP per capita, meaning they outperform those countries often perceived to be more digitally developed – more developed nations.
So what can we learn from those countries that outperform?
The Latin American startup culture has been developing for a while now, with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor recording late last year that the Latin American and Caribbean regions are now the second most enterprising in the world.
Initiatives such as Endeavor Global, Kaszek and Telefonica’s own Wayra startup accelerator are on the rise within these countries, churning out new innovations and young prosperous businesses each month.
These initiatives, coupled with both public and government support, are helping to create the environment needed for digital life and the economy to flourish.
Why are these findings important?
Well, anyone interested in the impact of digitalization will recognize that there’s a need to ensure everyone in society has equal access to digital services and the confidence and skills to use them.
By knowing where a country is performing well and where it could improve in relation to its digital life, governments and organizations can put their efforts towards supporting the areas that need it most.
For Latin American countries, this could mean continuing to support local entrepreneurs while also pushing for policies that can improve their digital openness and the digital confidence of their citizens.
Telefonica believes the possibilities of technology should be open to everyone. It’s their aim to help break down the barriers to adoption and empower people to grasp the opportunity and enrich their lives with digital technology in a safe, responsible and transparent way.
Young people are prime candidates to maximize the opportunity – a theme explored in the online Trailblazer series where the digital leaders of tomorrow are profiled.
Let’s face it: The pace of tech evolution and the ever-falling price of tech means that societies are going to become increasingly digital.
How people use these technologies and how they are supported in using them will go a long way towards defining the kind of societies we live in, as well as the extent to which our global economy can benefit from the digital revolution.
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