The APAC just beat the west at digital transformation — EIU study

BUSINESSES in the Asia Pacific (APAC) fiercely compete with their counterparts in the west, especially in the US and the UK.

In the digital age, much of that competition is based on the ability of companies to adopt new-age technologies to reduce costs, improve quality and efficiencies, and provide the best customer experience.

So far, it seemed as though the US and the UK were leading the race to digital adoption — but according to a new study by Telstra and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Singapore just beat the US and Australia and Japan trumped the UK with their digital transformation efforts.

Source: The Asian Digital Transformation Index 2018

EIU Asia Editorial Director Charles Ross, in an exclusive interview with Tech Wire Asia, pointed out that “developed Asia has actually come a long way in terms of digital adoption as compared to a few years ago”.

Obviously, governments in the APAC region have always been invested in digtial transformation and in creating an environment that is conducive to experimenting with and implementing technology at scale — which is what has propelled Singapore, Australia, and Japan ahead of the competition.

However, it’s important to note that it’s not all of Asia or the APAC that has managed to catapult itself ahead of the western giants.

Indonesia, Philippines, and even Malaysia have a long way to go when it comes to digital maturity — it’s something they need to start focusing on if they want to avoid being left behind.

The EIU study “The Asian Digital Transformation Index 2018: Building environments for technology-led change” evaluates the digital infrastructure, human capital, and industry connectivity of various countries in the region alongside the US, UK, and Australia to highlight how the region is doing with regards to its digital goals.

During the call, Ross pointed out that China, although quite behind on the index overall, is doing quite well in terms of digital transformation.

“China is doing quite well in terms of digital transformation. Take artificial intelligence (AI), for example. The country is neck and neck with the US when it comes to advancements in AI — but it doesn’t measure up on the overall ranking,” said Ross.

“It’s because the scores provided to the countries in the study are based on the overall technology infrastructure. In China’s case, building up that infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country isn’t the easiest — although the country is making great progress,” highlighted Ross.

Ross also pointed out that China (and several other Asian countries) are lagging behind in terms of human capital. Many of them don’t have the human capital necessary to help businesses get creative with new technologies and surge ahead of the competition.

The study was first conducted in 2016, and this second edition shows quite a deviation in the rankings.

In two years time, when the study is conducted again in 2020, Ross is confident that developed Asia — especially Singapore and Hong Kong — will rank far better than any of its competitors globally.