Doing digital business: 42 countries ranked

How easy is it to conduct digital business globally and what policy changes could improve the current picture?

In an article in Harvard Business Review, Bhaskar Chakravorti and Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi describe how they decided to analyse the ease of doing digital business in 42 countries and create a score for each country.

Although all businesses have elements of digital technology built into them, the authors define "digital businesses" as ones that have a digital platform as core to its business model. They analysed four types of digital platform businesses that represent distinct value propositions:

  • ecommerce platforms (e.g. Amazon);
  • digital media platforms (e.g. YouTube);
  • sharing economy platforms (e.g. Airbnb);
  • online freelance platforms (e.g. Upwork)

Creating a Scorecard

The authors wanted to discover how easy is it for the most significant digital platforms to enter, operate, thrive, or exit in markets around the world and what are the primary facilitators and barriers?  A country’s Ease of Doing Digital Business (EDDB) score was obtained from a combination of platform-specific scores and other factors, including for example the free flow of data and privacy measures.

Top performers

  • USA
  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Japan

The Nordic countries

As a group the Nordic countries score highly on the EDDB scale.  Nordic consumers have embraced subscription-based models for digital news and media access much faster than other countries. The region is home to some of the savviest online shoppers– a third of all Nordic consumers engage in cross border ecommerce on a monthly basis. Finland is a leader in the sharing economy; its success has been shaped by a combination of an open government, and high levels of trust.

Opportunities for improvement

Emerging markets exhibit significant opportunities for improvement, but each country represents a different challenge. For example:

India – although the number of internet users with mobile broadband access has been growing rapidly, the country is constrained by its digital and physical infrastructure. Recent ecommerce rule changes make it difficult for foreign players to navigate the country’s digital environment.

Turkey – although the country has an evolved and fast-moving digital ecosystem there are many challenges for those seeking to build digital businesses. Turkey has one of the largest gender pay gaps in the world.

Key contributors to EDDB

Digital regulations and public policy

Policymakers keen on fostering robust digital economies would do well by measuring and monitoring what we call their Gross Data Product and evaluate barriers to accessibility of data.


Infrastructure such as internet and mobile access and payment and fulfilment platforms are key to EDDB performance.

User skills

Skills, user sophistication, and the willingness to engage with digital platforms are all factors.

Cross border data flow

Finally, digital platforms are global. Not only do national regulations matter, but cross-border restrictions on the movement of data and regulations governing the flows of payments, can govern the growth of digital platforms.

The full article can be found here.