he past year has brought severe shocks to the economies and macroeconomic structures of countries around the world. In contrast to the last major crisis of a decade ago, however, global confidence in information and communications technology (ICT) and the virtues of digital development remains intact.
The 2009 e-readiness rankings reflect this complex environment. Digital development marches on, and millions more people across the globe continue to be connected to—and use—broadband Internet and other advanced communications technologies. But the Economist Intelligence Unit's long-established definition of e-readiness emphasises that a country's digital advancement is dependent on progress in other, interconnected areas, such as the business environment, education, support for innovation, legal frameworks, and government policy and vision. In part because of the wide-scale deterioration of countries' business environments over the past 12 months, the e-readiness scores of all but nine of the 70 countries in the study have declined in 2009.
But scores also fell because this year’s rankings now cover ICT usage in addition to availability. The availability of technology is not enough to deliver the full socioeconomic benefit to countries that ICT can provide. For this, digital technologies must be used, and used effectively. Tracking actual ICT use is a tricky endeavour, but we have introduced several new indicators this year which compare countries on the extent to which their businesses and individuals use online channels. Since technology usage tends to lag availability, countries' e-readiness scores have declined further.