Stand Out countries are highly digitally advanced and exhibit high momentum. They are leaders in driving innovation, building on their existing advantages in efficient and effective ways. However, sustaining consistently high momentum over time is challenging, as innovation-led expansions are often lumpy phenomena. To stay ahead, these countries need to keep their innovation engines in top gear and generate new demand, failing which they risk stalling out.
Stall Out countries enjoy a high state of digital advancement while exhibiting slowing momentum. The five top scoring countries in the DEI 2017 ranking — Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Finland — are all in the Stall Out zone, reflecting the challenges of sustaining growth. Moving past these “digital plateaus” will require a conscious effort by these countries to reinvent themselves, to bet on a rising digital technology in which it has leadership, and to eliminate impediments to innovation. Stall Out countries may look to Stand Out countries for lessons in sustaining innovation-led growth. Countries in the Stall Out zone can put their maturity, scale, and network effects to use to reinvent themselves and grow.
Break Out countries are low-scoring in their current states of digitalization but are evolving rapidly. The high momentum of Break Out countries and their significant headroom for growth would make them highly attractive to investors. Often held back by relatively weak infrastructure and poor institutional quality, Break Out countries would do well to foster better institutions that can help nurture and sustain innovation. Break Out countries have the potential to become the Stand Out countries of the future, with China, Malaysia, Bolivia, Kenya, and Russia leading the pack.
Watch Out countries face significant challenges with their low state of digitalization and low momentum; in some cases, these countries are moving backward in their pace of digitalization. Some of these countries demonstrate remarkable creativity in the face of severe infrastructural gaps, institutional constraints, and low sophistication of consumer demand. The surest way for these countries to mother needle on momentum would be to improve internet access by closing the mobile internet gap — that is, the difference between the number of mobile phones and the number of mobile phones with internet access.