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World digital government rankings 2023 published by Waseda University: Denmark secures first position for the third consecutive year, while Japan falls out of top 10


The Institute of e-Government at Waseda University Comprehensive Research Organization (Shinjuku City, Tokyo, Director Atsushi Kato), has released "the 18th Waseda University - IAC World Digital Government Ranking 2023." Denmark secured the first position for the third consecutive year, while Canada climbed one rank from the previous year to second place. Japan, which continues to face challenges, fell out of the top 10 for the first time since the survey began.

Expectations for strengthening human resource development

The ranking covers 66 digitally advanced countries and regions and evaluates the progress of essential digital government services in the daily lives of citizens from various perspectives using 10 key indicators. It garners attention from public and private sector institutions around the world, including the World Bank, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and OECD, because of its contributions to digital society.

The evaluation model for this ranking survey was developed by Dr. Toshio Obi, Professor Emeritus of Waseda University, who served as the first director of the Institute in 2005, and the ranking methodology was established. The survey is conducted by a joint research team of experts representing affiliated universities under the International Academy of CIO, a global non-profit organization. (President: Professor Naoko Iwasaki, Waseda University)

In this year's survey, Denmark secured the first position for the third consecutive year. Canada also made a leap forward and ranked second for the first time. Among the top 10 countries that improved their rankings from the previous year were the United Kingdom (from 6th to 3rd), South Korea (from 7th to 6th), the Netherlands (from 17th to 8th), and Ireland (from 14th to 10th). In particular, the Netherlands, in 8th place, made a significant leap thanks to growth in the areas of citizen participation and administrative reform. Ireland, in 10th place, improved its ranking by four places from the previous year thanks to administrative and fiscal reforms.

Japan, on the other hand, has not made sufficient progress in digitalization from the perspective of its citizens. Its progress in promoting administrative and fiscal reforms has also been insufficient, leading it to fall out of the top 10 for the first time in the 18-year history of this ranking survey, landing at 11th place.

The Digital Agency, which was established two years ago, had trouble dealing with the digitalization for COVID-19 and health insurance, and its achievements were insufficient. Furthermore, the low rating was attributable to persistent issues such as the need to strengthen digital governance and break down the central government's siloed administrative system, digital disparities among municipalities, and challenges in implementing citizen-centered digitalization and cultivating a highly skilled digital workforce.

Professor Iwasaki commented on this result: "While high expectations are placed on the Digital Agency, structural issues of siloed government agencies and decision-making complexity between the national and local levels remain. A further issue is that the widening gap in administrative−fiscal and digital disparities among prefectures and municipalities is more pronounced in terms of human resources, technology, and budget. And now, as a world-class digital government makes rapid progress, we hope for strengthened development of the digital workforce that will serve as the driving force behind this progress."

The biggest topic is generative AI

The top 20 countries/regions and their respective evaluation scores in this year's World Digital Government Ranking can be seen in the table below.

18th Waseda University World Digital Government Comprehensive Ranking 2023
Provided by Waseda University

The ranking survey report highlights the discussion on generative AI as the biggest topic for 2023 and summarizes instances of applying AI to administrative agencies of major countries.

In 2023, the global impact of COVID-19 has lessened, and the report shows that overall activity in the digital government sector has increased compared to the pre-pandemic era despite differences in levels across different sectors, such as the use of new technologies, hybrid digital government models that use both online and face-to-face interactions, and the widespread adoption of mobile government that uses mobile devices such as smartphones.

Furthermore, the report highlights an emphasis on administrative services among the top-ranked countries that contribute to efficiency, productivity improvements, and addressing digital disparities based on the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government departments in various countries have made progress in learning from the digital transformation of the most digitally advanced countries and following their lead in reducing digital disparities.

When it comes to Japan, the report summarized its challenges and structural shortcomings and noted remaining issues regarding the role of the Digital Agency and the effectiveness of its authority as a command tower, as well as the adverse effects of the siloed administration of government agencies, delayed administrative digital transformation, and lack of speed.

Furthermore, the following four items were proposed as top priorities for Japan's digital government:

(i) This report represents the culmination of 18 research and survey analyses, evaluating and analyzing valuable historical transitions derived from 18 years of time-series analysis and discussing the policies necessary to predict the future image (model) of a digital government from various perspectives.

The report strongly encourages learning from the historical lessons of the singularity event, in which steadily and rapidly growing AI will challenge human society.

(ii) In anticipation of a super-aging society facing a declining birthrate and population, what needs to be done now is to reduce administrative and fiscal costs and improve efficiency through public−private partnerships using digital technology and through the promotion of innovation, as well as to invest proactively and optimally in digital technology.

In other words, the comprehensive integration of the emerging digital society with the aging society requires the implementation of speedy administrative and fiscal reforms and citizen-centered one-stop administrative services, which are the founding principles of digital government.

(iii) The cornerstone of the digital innovation growth strategy in the post-COVID-19 era is not individual (partial) accumulation but rather the urgent formulation of a new comprehensive roadmap.

(iv) High-quality digital infrastructure is considered the core or backbone for the establishment of the "5th-generation digital government" proposed by the Institute, based on the development and proliferation of 5G/6G and the utilization of AI blockchain.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. ( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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