A new study released recently by leading strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton identifies the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada as the nations with the best environments for e-commerce, combining an up-to-date communications infrastructure with strong political leadership.
Booz Allen examined both statistical indicators and government policies that affect e-commerce, identifying the most advanced e-economies and the reasons for their success.
The study was commissioned in March 2002 by the British Government's Office of the e-Envoy and the Information Age Partnership -- a group of 30 CEOs and top-ranking managers from Europe's leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies -- to develop a framework for measuring the e-commerce progress of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, U.S.) plus Australia and Sweden, and to assess the UK's level of progress toward its target of becoming "the best environment in the world for e-commerce."
The study also was designed to examine why some countries have achieved superior performance in particular areas of their e-economy, either through high-impact policy initiatives, or through environmental factors. Finally, the study identifies best practices, which may be applicable across countries to address weaknesses.
The study assessed the e-economy in four major categories: Environment, Readiness, Uptake and Use, and Impact, and three major stakeholder groups: citizens, businesses and government.
Among the key findings:
• The U.S., the UK and Canada have developed the best environment for e-commerce, through a combination of policy decisions and other factors.
• The citizens of Canada, Sweden and the U.S. are the most involved in the e-economy, combining high levels of readiness with high uptake and emerging impact.
• Business e-maturity -- the adoption and use of on-line technologies to change the way businesses work -- is most developed in the U.S. and Sweden.
• Sweden, the U.S., Canada and Australia have the strongest e-government development, driven by their early initiatives and a sustained commitment.
"The countries with the most advanced e-economies got an early start and haven't looked back," said Booz Allen Vice President Barrie Berg. "They have succeeded by maintaining their commitment to drive e-access into all aspects of society."
(Note: The countries named in the lists of category leaders are not ranked in order.)
• Overall leaders: U.S., UK and Canada.
• Market environment -- Three key policy themes emerged across the countries studied: integrating computer training into the educational process, stimulating investment in the e-economy, and regulating the price of Internet access. Leaders: Sweden, U.S., UK.
• Political and regulatory environment -- Leaders have strong institutions and supportive regulation already in place. Leaders: U.S., Australia, UK.
• Infrastructure environment -- All countries studied are working to extend and accelerate broadband rollout in a competitive market environment. Leaders: Japan, U.S.
Citizens and the e-economy
• Overall leaders: U.S., Sweden and Canada.
• Citizen readiness -- Describes the “skill and the will” of a nation's citizens to participate in e-commerce, given that it is available to them. Leaders have successfully boosted the readiness of citizens through initiatives to raise PC penetration and through targeted training. Leaders: Canada, U.S.
• Citizen uptake -- Describes the level and type of actual use of e-technologies. Most governments have focused on encouraging participation among specific groups of citizens, such as the elderly, the poor, rural communities and the female population. Leaders: Canada, U.S., Sweden.
• Citizen impact -- Describes the degree to which citizens' lives have actually been transformed by e-technologies. Measures factors such as online spending by computers and working practices, such as teleworking. Leaders: U.S., Sweden.
Business and the e-economy
• Overall leaders: U.S., Sweden.
• Business readiness -- Sweden and Japan lead in access device penetration, and Italy and the U.S. have the most positive attitudes. Successful government policies include the UK's "Online for Business" program and Germany's "Innovation and Jobs for the Information Society," backed by 1 billion Euros of training investment. Leaders: Canada, U.S., Sweden.
• Business usage -- Key components include level of basic use, fairness of adoption, level of interaction and level of transaction activity. Basic usage is highest in Sweden and the U.S.; fairness of uptake is highest in Australia, Germany and Sweden; Canadian businesses have the highest level of interactive use, while German and American businesses are the most involved in transactions. Leaders: U.S., Sweden, Germany.
• Business impact -- Includes changes in spending behavior and in working processes such as ordering, logistics and design. Leaders: U.S., with Sweden, Canada and the UK following.
Governments and e-economy
• Overall leaders: Sweden, U.S., Canada and Australia.
• Government readiness -- The most successful approaches to integrating the e-economy into the government itself are characterized by strong government leadership and a dual focus on back office integration and front office service delivery. Leaders: U.S., with Canada, Australia and the UK following.
• Government usage -- High levels of usage are characterized by the number of staff and services online. Nations that previously lagged are making decisive efforts to close on the leaders with efforts such as the German e-government policy "BundOnline." Leaders: Sweden, with Australia, the U.S. and Canada following.
• Government impact -- The impact of on-line technology on government itself. Few governments have particularly effective approaches to measure the impact of their policies. Leaders: Sweden, Australia.
"The e-economy of a nation is a complex jigsaw and all nations are missing some pieces. Governments can do much to boost their e-economies as long as they have a clear view on what the missing pieces are. While there are many specific statistics -- on the percentage of Internet penetration in homes for example -- there have until now been no comprehensive tools to measure e-economy performance over all. This report allows governments not only to compare their progress relative to other nations but to pinpoint their real weaknesses and focus resource on strengthening them," said Jeff Bollettino, vice president at Booz Allen.
Bollettino concluded: "That's why there are no absolute winners or losers in our report. All nations, in this early stage of e-commerce development, under-perform in some areas. One can learn from another's experience rather than having to reinvent the wheel, and international cooperation can be fostered. The prize is more efficient government services, 24/7 access to them, at low cost for all."
For more information, visit www.boozallen.com or www.strategy-business.com, the Web site for strategy+business, a quarterly journal sponsored by Booz Allen.