Fintech Intelligence

Making Virtual a Reality: The Nations Using Digital to Distance

  • New Expert Market study investigates which countries are most prepared for living online using 9 data points including digital infrastructure, access to digital technology and government investment to rank the most digitally-prepared nations

  • South Korea who used technology to tackle the virus comes top

  • Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all sitting in the top five

  • The USA came fifth, scoring highest for intelligent connectivity but was ‘let down’ by its internet usage

  • The UK came seventh, ranking average on most values except mobile and broadband download speeds

The outbreak of Covid-19 has catapulted the world into a different way of living and working. Physical interaction is out, and digital solutions are in. With many nations and businesses scrambling to find non-contact solutions, at Expert Market we wanted to see which nations are well-placed to make virtual a reality.

We explored nine data points including internet access, digital infrastructure, digital communication, public services, and digital payments (full list below).

The Top Spot: South Korea
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the country that has been said to have contained Covid-19 the best, South Korea, also came top for contact-free living.

Our research showed that South Korea ranks third in the world for e-government services – which refers to government provisions of online services – and second for broadband download speed, and first for mobile download speeds. This combination makes it well placed to adapt to a new digital lifestyle.

Its citizens are also able to receive important updates quickly with more than 87% of South Koreans possessing smartphones and 95% using the internet. The South Korean authorities used this to their advantage when fighting the Covid-19 outbreak, setting up an interactive website and app for people to track infection rates in their area.

The data also showed that South Korea’s social media usage is the highest in the world, perhaps due to the vast array of its own local social media platforms.

East Asian countries ranked well in general, with Singapore coming in third, Japan landing 8th position, and China making 14th.

The poster-child for healthy and happy societies, our research showed that Scandinavian countries can also take pride in their digital strategies; with Denmark coming second, Sweden third and Norway 5th in the index, All boast over 95% internet usage and score high for intelligent connectivity and digital evolution.

Denmark, which came second in the index, has a near-perfect score for e-government development. In fact, 88% of Danish citizens interact digitally with public authorities each year.

Similar to the rest of Scandinavia, the last 20 years have seen Denmark’s public sector undergo a rapid push towards digitisation. This, combined with the Danes’ already elevated levels of trust in public authorities, makes communication during COVID-19 a speedier, safer, and more effective proposition.

The USA came top in the index for intelligent connection and ranked fifth overall. However, internet usage in the US was just 75% – 22% lower than Denmark in the top place. It also scored relatively low for mobile download speeds and was third lowest for households with a computer.

The UK
The UK ranked seventh in our index, scoring highest on e-government development, where it came third after Denmark and Australia. It also scored fifth highest for internet usage at 94.6%. It was let down by its scores for internet broadband speed, and mobile broadband speed, which was less than half that of the high scorer

Lucy Crossfield, who headed up the research for Expert Market comments: “The Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated the world’s adoption of digital solutions. On a small scale, you have local businesses pivoting to contact-free deliveries through newly created apps, and at a national level, you have governments looking to limit interaction on transport and finding ways to transmit information to people on a national scale.

“It’s interesting to see top spot holder South Korea using their existing digital infrastructure to respond to the crisis – setting up a website to inform their citizens and help slow the spread of the virus. They’ve had one of the most successful responses to the pandemic so this may well encourage those further down the list like Japan, China, and Germany to increase investment in their digital infrastructure.”


  • Editorial Director of the The Fintech Times

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