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In the second installment of a new series of opinion pieces called Mobile Hub, Big Mobile's Graham Christie looks at Australia's digital health with insights from a World Economic Forum and INSEAD report.

 

Annual Appraisal

Did you know we’ve all just received our annual appraisal?  Ok, not exactly, but if you have a professional interest in digital economies and their capabilities, then the just published ‘Global Information Technology Report 2013’ from the World Economic Forum and INSEAD has a lot to tell us about fixed and mobile digital marketplaces at home and overseas. It’s a good and rare opportunity to look at a markets digital health, and be able to produce a comparative picture to assist in their development.

In it’s 12th year, the Report carries a lot of information, over 300 pages in fact.  The main draw card, and why the Report gets a lot of attention, is the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) that ranks 144 nations against ‘10 Pillars’, a criteria that includes the capabilities of internet and mobile infrastructure, consumer engagement, regulatory context and more.

What it shows is the diversity of digital landscapes across the globe, and the APAC region is presented as one of the most fascinating. A canter around the Index sees Finland come out on top, beating Singapore into second place, followed by Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, UK, Denmark, US, then Taiwan rounding out the top 10.  Thereafter, more APAC markets pop up; Republic of Korea (11), Hong Kong (14), Australia (18), New Zealand (20), Japan (21), Malaysia (30), China (58), Thailand (74), Indonesia (76), Vietnam (84), Philippines (86).

The scorecards are a useful snapshot of where individual markets are progressive, and where sluggish.  Singapore for instance, not surprisingly, scores very well in all areas particularly the support the ecosystem is provided, the proactively of players in it, and subsequent business and consumer take-up.  Even considering some advantages Singapore has, it is no mean feat to align these factors, to maintain the number two position from last year’s index.

Interestingly most APAC markets fell a placing or two.  Not a catastrophe, still, it’s in the wrong direction.  In Australia’s case the factor that sticks out, once again, is (lack of) affordability of services, with the relative cost of using services in Australia ranking 97th overall. The heat being generated in Australia just now, by the hiccups and politicking around the National Broadband Network (NBN) roll-out is not impacting, yet. That’s unlikely to be the case this time next year.

Emerging economies such as Indonesia, and the Philippines, the Report supports, are seeing great change in digitization.  Big Mobile’s experience in these markets tells us they are maturing more than twice the rate that developed markets did during that same formative life stage.  One of the main factors that’s helping fuel this, is employment growth, therefore it’s how quickly the expertise of often first time digital marketers is grounded, learned, and the skills transferred, that will help determine growth.  Possessing a solid, growing skills base is probably one reason Malaysia sits above other SEA markets, other than Singapore.

 

Room for improvement

So in advanced markets like Australia and Singapore, as we’ve seen in the insights published this month from Nielsen and TNS, mobile is moving towards a centralised position amongst marketing channels, especially digital ones.  And in some emerging markets, the ‘mobile internet’ is becoming the internet, and ‘social’ is predominantly on mobile. However, we cannot afford to allow organic growth fuelled by user volumes to be the only agent of change. The areas covered by the 10 Pillars highlighted in this new Report deserves to get as much attention as possible by organisations and decision makers. And we should be restless about finding ways to ‘do better’. The Report provides a useful framework to take a balanced approach to developing the channel more holistically, which will place a greater value on it, and sooner.

 

What to do more of

We can find a new gear by focusing on a few areas;

Elevate thinking.  Place smart mobile thinking that breaks new ground at the heart of the business.  Doing so challenges the ecosystem around us to improve.  What’s that saying… about doing the same thing again and again and hoping for a different result? We should just set out to create difference.

Skills base.  Increase industry involvement throughout tertiary level education, and beyond into grad programs.  In business, integrate scalable people to people to machine knowledge sharing, and at the same time build ways to help improve corporate memory.

Government and regulatory assistance.  Agitate legislative bodies directly. or through industry reps, to wind back red tape where it exists, particularly in investment related and start-up areas, and separately provoke greater and more constructive dialogue between consumer privacy advocates and marketers.

Collaborate to innovate.  Develop more informal or formal collaborative frameworks within your own business or global network, and with outside partners sharing the risks and rewards. Better cross-functional teams create better products and services.

Intellectual Property. We’re inventors, or at least doing a lot of things for the first time.  Look to protect your creations. A function of doing so means you will look beyond into subsequent iterations of the product, and perhaps further into licensing, and therefore almost always unlock the I.P. opportunity.

 

We have a great opportunity over the next few years to set course to capitalise the impact and therefore the value of online and mobile. 

The importance of these channels is undeniable, and the velocity of their development unstoppable, but the way it matures will say much about marketers own memory of web 1.0 and 2.0 and the lessons learned, as well as our ability to put the mobile-centric future in better focus and manage it more proactively.

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