Australia's digital competitiveness is growing but it still falls outside the top 10, according to a World Economic Forum report that analyses the ICT environments of different countries.
The Global Information Technology Report ranking is based on a combination of factors that fall into four broad categories: The regulatory and business environment; ICT affordability, skills and infrastructure; the use of ICT by individuals, business and government; and the economic and social impact of ICT.
In this year's index Australia's ' Networked Readiness Index' (NRI) ranking climbed two places to 16. In the APAC region it trails Singapore (the top-ranked country globally), Japan (10th place), and South Korea (12th). It was also beaten by a number of other G-20 members: In order, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the US, the UK, Luxembourg, Canada and Germany.
"Even though [Australia] features in the top 10 of only one pillar (Infrastructure), the country ranks no lower than 28th in each of the ten pillars of the NRI," the report states.
"It obtains excellent marks in most of the readiness-related indicators, which translates into very high levels of ICT usage."
Australia boasts the fourth highest penetration rate for 3G and 4G mobile subscribers. ICT uptake by business only comes in at 25th, however.
"Despite excellent grades in terms of online services offerings and e-participation tools, the government could do more to encourage the use of ICTs," the report states.
"The economy is largely dependent on commodity exports and is not particularly innovative. In order to develop this capacity for innovation, diversify the economy, and build resilience, the government and businesses should embrace ICTs even more enthusiastically."
"The improvement in Australia's rankings is most welcome especially as it follows a period of deterioration over the decade to 2014," said Innes Willox, the CEO of the Australian Industry Group.
"However, it also serves as a reminder of our fall from 9th place in 2004," the AI Group chief executive added.
"We should be doing more to ensure we return to a leading position. This is particularly important for Australia where achieving top-ranking ICT capabilities can do so much to counter the tyranny of distance."
Australia should try to once again be part of the top 10 by 2020, Willox added.
"We note the Harper review has made recommendations relating to the policy and regulatory framework, aimed to balance promoting the benefits that flow from ICT with respect to innovation and entrepreneurship, with protecting consumers' interests and preventing anti-competitive behaviour. This should help in assisting Australia’s ranking in respect to laws relating to ICT."