Benchmarking the Future of the Network Economy


Although it is too early to draw a precise picture of the Post-Covid world, it is safe to say the digital-led global recovery has been unequal, further amplifying the digital divide between different geographic and economic groups. In this complex and volatile context, the role of digital transformation is bigger than ever. It has the potential to fundamentally change how organizations, governments and individuals operate and create more value for the economy and society at large.

While digital transformation impacts all aspects of our lives, it does so in uneven ways, affecting various cultural, economic, and age groups differently. The previous edition of the Network Readiness Index (NRI) focused on digital-led recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects of closing the digital divide between different groups of society. This year the focus is on one specific group - the younger generations, or 'digital natives', and the role they play in shaping the world as we step into the new digital era.

While some of the questions related to the role of digital natives in shaping our collective future surpass the realm of direct measurability, we believe that the right metrics can help provide adequate policy interventions that steer the process in the right direction and maximize benefits not just for younger generations, but also for the economy and society at large.

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Bruno Lanvin Soumitra Duta

NRI 2022 Theme

Stepping into the new digital era:

How and why digital natives will shape the world.

One might initially be tempted to conclude that the accelerated digitalization of our societies is benefitting more those who understand and master them. These 'digital natives' are typically the younger generations rather than the older generations. However, it is important to consider those challenges and opportunities facing the younger generations that will be ushered in by the advent of the digital era.

The global data collected by the NRI team, and the subsequent analyses stemming from this data, reveals that much uncertainty remains about our collective international ability (and that of individual economies) to maximize the social and economic effects of this digital transformation. If the world's youth is indeed expected to play the leading roles in this global process, then emerging economies have a definite demographic advantage. Yet, simple numbers do not tell the whole story without careful consideration.

Key message from the NRI 2022

1. We are entering a new digital era

Digital transformation is a global imperative in today's data-driven world. This became most evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated the need to rapidly adopt digital solutions. As many aspects of life now rely on online connections, the amount of data generated daily continues to grow at exponential rates and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This raises new issues regarding our individual and collective ability to derive value from data, as well as the governance that should be put in place around data and data flows.

2. Digital transformation may create new inequalities

To this day, over 2.9 billion people, mostly in developing countries, lack stable internet access. As of 2021, only 53% of LDC (least developed countries) territory had access to 4G (ITU, 2021). As the demand for digital skills increases, such disparities in access and connectivity will only amplify existing divides among, as well as within, national economies and regions. Such inequalities within these countries and regions may also hinder the ability of younger generations to meaningfully engage in the digital economy. Regardless of their appetite for digital technologies, they will be unable to fully harness the rich opportunities brought about by the digital era.

3. Digital transformation remains a powerful way to do more with less at all levels of income

A group of middle-and low-income economies stand out as being highly efficient in one or more of the elements that lead to successful digital transformation. These economies - led by China, India, and Rwanda - are creating the necessary opportunities to induce faster paced change above their expected levels of development. Many of these economies are located in Africa. They perform particularly well in two pillars of the NRI model, namely technology and impact. Such successes can be a source of inspiration for other emerging economies.

4. Digital Natives are shaping the future of work, and ready to lead in the new digital era

With the age of digital transformation, new ways of working have emerged. Digital natives operate in a more collaborative and less hierarchical manner than what has been traditionally seen in the office workplace. This flexible work environment is further supported by the emergence of gig work. To fully leverage the potential of new generations to create value in those environments in which they feel comfortable, public and private organizations should encourage the involvement of young people in conversations that govern how they work and communicate.

5. Formal education is evolving, and will continue to do so

Technologies and ways of working will continue to see cumulative innovations in the coming years. By 2025, it is estimated that 50% of all employees will need reskilling due to the adoption of new technologies. Further, a third of these essential skills will consist of technical competencies not yet regarded as crucial to today's job requirements (WEF, 2021). Thus, the process of learning and its intended objectives will continue to evolve, becoming an essential dimension in the lives of digital natives. Higher education institutions, non-traditional programs, and employers must commit to making opportunities for reskilling and upskilling accessible, available, and affordable. Giving all people the opportunities they need to develop the necessary skills to fully participate in the future workplace will contribute to more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.

6. Metrics are important

While we cannot fully measure digital transformation, or the direct impact of digital natives in this process, it is important to harness the appropriate metrics to support informed policy-making. As we enter a new digital era, understanding the limits of existing measures and developing new metrics that effectively track core dimensions of digital transformation is key. For example, this year's NRI uses an updated software development indicator with GitHub data. These results allow for metrics that better identify those countries which have attracted global contributions, as well as enable more accurate and insightful comparisons across all countries. Through such improvements, we hope the NRI can remain a 'frontier tool' that will help decision makers better prepare for the future.

Key Results

The Top 10

In contrast to previous years, the top 10 performers in the NRI 2022 repositioned themselves in their relative level of network readiness. Specifically, the Republic of Korea makes its first appearance in the top 10. Additionally, the United States climbed three spots to displace the Netherlands in the top position, which had previously dominated the NRI rankings throughout the years. Singapore also climbed five spots to earn a place among the top five for the first time since 2020. This addition to the top 10 created a more geographically balanced distribution than in previous years. The top 10 performers all demonstrate solid performance metrics across the dimensions of the NRI. They all rank as the top 25 countries on each of the four primary pillars (Technology, People, Governance, Impact), demonstrating a comprehensive approach to maintaining digital readiness. The top 10 countries exhibit a pattern of high-income economies devoted to investing in and adopting information and communications technologies (ICTs) across governments, businesses, and individuals.

Economy NRI Rank NRI Score Technology People Governance Impact
United States 1 80.30 1 2 7 20
Singapore 2 79.35 4 4 10 2
Sweden 3 78.91 8 5 5 1
Netherlands 4 78.82 3 14 4 4
Switzerland 5 78.45 2 11 12 5
Denmark 6 78.26 11 7 2 7
Finland 7 77.90 13 6 3 3
Germany 8 76.11 7 9 14 8
Korea, Rep. 9 75.95 14 1 22 13
Norway 10 75.68 12 12 1 14

Regional Leaders

The top three regional leaders reflect the performance divide that exists across the different regions of the NRI. Foremost, Europe leads by having a majority in the top 10 economies. They are followed by Asia, with Singapore and the Republic of Korea achieving spots respectively in the top 10. Africa, on the other hand, remains the region with the lowest quartile performance. The highest ranking economies in each region tend to ensure their population is digitally well equipped, as well as continuously pressing forward by readily adopting future technologies. A particular example of this trend is Sweden's position as the top performer in Europe, followed by the Netherlands' consistent positive ranking. The United Arab Emirates, Singapore, the Russian Federation, the United States, and South Africa all continue to lead in their respective regions.

Note: Global ranks in parentheses. CIS = Commonwealth of Independent States.

Income Group Leaders

The top performing economies for each income group reflect the positive correlation between income levels and network readiness, as demonstrated by the achievements of the United States, Singapore, and the Netherlands. Each of these countries tend to invest relatively more than the others in their group in the human capital of their workforce, and have attained more new technologies. Of those economies that performed the best overall, the high-income groups dominate the top quartile and earn the top three spots in the overall ranking. Comparatively, China represents the upper middle-income economies ranked in the upper quartile, whereas, Ukraine is the only lower middle-income economy that appears in the upper half of the NRI rankings. While higher-income countries have generally performed better in the area of network readiness, this may be the result of having invested previously in the technologies and regulatory policies that have proven to streamline digital growth.

High Income Countries Upper-Middle Income Countries Lower-middle Income Countries Low Income Countries
1. United States (1) 1. China (23) 1. Ukraine (50) 1. Rwanda (101)
2. Singapore (2) 2. Malaysia (36) 2. Indonesia (59) 2. Zambia (113)
3. Sweden (3) 3. Russian Federation (40) 3. India (61) 3. Uganda (116)

Note: Global ranks in parentheses.

Continuing to improve the NRI model

Digital transformation demands a continual reexamination of the sources that enrich the NRI model. Each year the NRI team examined multiple general and technology-specific sources to identify novel indicators that can help measure and assess the dynamic landscape of digital transformation and network readiness.

Improvements to the NRI occurred through the replacement, development, or inclusion of coherent metrics. Yet, the main concept underlying the NRI model relies on the notion that our collective future will require a harmonious integration of People and Technology.

Primary updates to the NRI 2022 apply across six sub-pillars: Access, Content, Individuals, Businesses, Economy, and SDG Contribution. A total of 58 indicators populate all 12 sub-pillars in the NRI. Details about any improvements within the complete list of indicators are found in Appendix I: Technical Notes and Appendix II: Sources and Definitions.


Technology is at the heart of the network economy. Therefore, as a primary category of the NRI, the Technology pillar seeks to assess the level of technology that is a sine qua non for a country to participate in the global economy. Three sub-pillars accomplish the Technology pillar's purpose:

  • Access: People's fundamental access level to ICT in countries, including issues about communications infrastructure and affordability.
  • Content: The type of digital technology produced in countries and the content/applications that can be deployed locally. This includes research findings on the subject derived from scientific and technical articles, software spending, GitHub commits, and mobile app creation.
  • Future Technologies: The extent that countries have prepared for the future of the network economy and new technology trends. This includes employing Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and the levels of spending in emerging technologies.


The prevalence and quality of technology reflect the skill, access, and ability of the people and organizations within a country to utilize technology resources in productive ways. Therefore, the People pillar measures how people apply ICT at three levels of analysis: individuals, businesses, and governments.

  • Individuals: How individuals use technology and leverage their skills to participate in the network economy.
  • Businesses: How businesses use ICT and participate in the network economy including their spending on R&D.
  • Governments: How governments use, invest in, and deploy ICT for the benefit of the general population.


Governance refers to the structures that uphold an integrated network for the safety and security of its users. Therefore, the Governance pillar concerns the establishment and accessibility of systems that promote activity within the network economy across three levels:

  • Trust: The safety of individuals and firms in the context of the network economy, reflected in an environment that is conducive to trust and the trusting behavior of the population.
  • Regulation: The extent to which a government promotes participation in the network economy through regulation, policy, and planning.
  • Inclusion: The digital divides within countries where governance can address issues such as inequality based on gender, disabilities, and socioeconomic status.


Readiness in the network economy is a means to improve the growth and well-being of society and the economy in general. Therefore, the Impact pillar seeks to assess the economic, social, and human impact of participation in the network economy across three levels:

  • Economy: The economic impact of participating in the network economy - including the size of the local market.
  • Quality of life: The social impact of participating in the network economy.
  • SDG contribution: The impact of participating in the network economy within the context of SDGs. ICT has a critical role within the network economy and receives particular focus with indicators integrated across health, education, gender equality, and the environment.

Detailed results of NRI 2022

Download the NRI 2022 Report