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Predicting Success in a Digitally Dominant World

Fletcher team unveils new research ranking the ease of doing digital business in 42 countries.

The Fletcher School at Tufts University today unveiled the Ease of Doing Digital Business report 2019, in the hopes of answering the question: Pick a country that might be a market for a digital business, such as Amazon, Airbnb, Netflix or the next unicorn; how easy or difficult is it to establish, grow or even exit a digital business in that country?

This study provides the first-ever detailed analysis of doing digital business in 42 advanced and emerging economies that account for nearly 4/5ths of internet users and economic output globally. The research, which acts as a toolkit for digital businesses, investors and policymakers, identifies and measures the factors that buoy and beset digital businesses by focusing on four major digital platforms: e-commerce, the sharing economy, online freelance, and digital media. This study derives inspiration from the World Bank’s highly influential Doing Business annual reports – and extends it into the digital era.

Below is the executive summary, followed by links to the report, press release, and associated Harvard Business Review article.

Executive Summary

If the yardstick of effectiveness of any scorecard or ranking were tangible efforts, by those graded, to “improve bad ratings or maintain good ones”, few come even remotely close to the World Bank’s annual "Doing Business" survey. A comparison of country regulations – on starting, running, and folding an enterprise – designed to motivate country governments to improve their business environment and remain attractive to businesses and investors, "Doing Business" has inspired more than 3,500 reforms across 190 economies to date; in 2017-18 alone, 128 economies undertook a record 314 reforms.

While it remains by far one of most influential measures of business regulations and enforcement, "Doing Business" says little about the ease or difficulty of doing digital business. We aim to close this gap with this first analysis of the "Ease of Doing Digital Business" in 42 countries around the world. We find that digital business environments require distinctive policy focuses and investments. Our evaluation is inspired by and intended as a complement to the World Bank’s influential scorecard; it is designed to provide decision makers with a basis to go beyond a mere comparison of countries on factors that determine “traditional” business-friendliness into the nuances that affect setting up and operating digital businesses across markets. While it is true that most businesses have elements of digital technology built into them, we define “digital businesses” as ones that have a digital platform as core to its business model. To that end, we analyze the ease of entry and operation of four essential digital platforms: e-commerce platforms (such as Amazon, Alibaba, etc.); digital media platforms (such as YouTube, Netflix, Tencent Video, etc.); sharing economy platforms (such as Uber, Airbnb, Bolt, Go-Jek etc.); and online freelance platforms (such as Upwork, Toptal, and similar).

These four platforms capture the core ways in which digitalization is transforming our daily lives. E-commerce has already significantly impacted the way we search for and order goods, from groceries to textbooks. Digital media is continuing to change the way we access news and entertainment, with digital news subscriptions overtaking print subscriptions and video streaming sites outperforming cable television. Transportation, accommodation, delivery services, and other physical services are being reorganized through new business models in the sharing economy. Lastly, the digital gig economy (online freelance) is also shaping the future of work, as employment is shifting from full-time traditional jobs to remote, contract-based jobs arranged on online platforms. The digital economy will inevitably influence the way we work, shop, travel, and entertain ourselves, and our four chosen platforms encompass these existing and imminent changes.

Read the full report: Ease of Doing Digital Business

Press Release: The US, UK and the Netherlands are the Top Countries to do Business in a Digitally Dominant World - The Fletcher School at Tufts University Unveils the Ease of Doing Digital Business Report

Read the Harvard Business Review article about the report: Ranking 42 Countries by Ease of Doing Digital Business