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Countries Ranked by Their Economic Complexity

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global economic complexity ranking

Countries Ranked by Their Economic Complexity

In the past, the trade between nations was a much simpler matter to grasp. Commodities and a few finished goods moved between a handful of countries in a straightforward way.

Today, around 6,000 officially classified products pass through the world’s ports, and digital products and services zip across country lines creating an extra layer of difficulty in measuring economic activity.

To try to understand this enormous level of economic complexity, the team at Harvard’s Growth Lab have created the Country Complexity Ranking. Here’s a look at the top 50 countries in the ranking:

RankCountryScoreTop Export(s)
1Japan2.28Cars, ICT (tech)
2Switzerland2.14ICT, gold, packaged medicaments
3South Korea2.05ICT, cars
4Germany2.02Integrated circuits, ICT, cars
5Singapore1.81ICT, cars
6Czech Rep.1.79Cars, vehicle parts
7Austria1.71ICT, tourism
8Finland1.69ICT
9Sweden1.67ICT
10Hungary1.64ICT, cars
11Slovenia1.57Cars, ICT
12United States1.47ICT, tourism
13Italy1.42ICT, tourism
14United Kingdom1.42ICT, finance
15Slovakia1.41Cars
16France1.40ICT, tourism
17Ireland1.39ICT
18Israel1.37ICT, diamonds
19China1.30Electronic equipment
20Mexico1.27Cars
21Poland1.19ICT
22Denmark1.18Transport, ICT
23Belgium1.16ICT
24Romania1.16ICT, vehicle parts
25Thailand1.15Tourism
26Netherlands1.04ICT
27Estonia1.03ICT, transport
28Malaysia0.95Integrated circuits
29Belarus0.93Refined oils, ICT
30Croatia0.92Tourism, ICT
31Lithuania0.85Transport, refined oils
32Spain0.85Tourism, ICT
33Philippines0.75Integrated circuits, ICT
34Portugal0.72Tourism, ICT
35Canada0.69Crude oil, cars, ICT
36Bosnia and Herz.0.65Tourism, ICT
37Serbia0.65ICT
38Turkey0.65Tourism, transport
39Latvia0.64Transport, ICT
40Bulgaria0.62Tourism, ICT
41Norway0.56Crude oil, petrol. gases
42Ukraine0.42ICT, transport
43Cyprus0.38Tourism, transport
44Tunisia0.34Electrical wire, tourism
45India0.32ICT
46Costa Rica0.30ICT, tourism
47Uruguay0.29Tourism, wood pulp
48Brazil0.24Soya beans, iron ore
49Russia0.24Crude oil, refined oils
50Lebanon0.24Tourism, ICT

Source

Japan, Switzerland, and South Korea sit at the top of the ranking.

Czech Republic – which was recently ranked as the most attractive manufacturing destination in Europe – has a strong showing, ranking 6th in the world. The United States slipped out of the top 10 into 12th position.

The Power of Productive Knowledge

Highly ranked countries tend to have the following attributes:

    • A high diversity of exported products
    • Sophisticated and unique exported products (i.e. few other countries produce similar products)

In short, the ranking hinges on the concept of “productive knowledge” – or the tacit ability to produce a product.

Muhammed Yildirim, of Harvard University, has thought up a useful analogy for thinking about the role of productive knowledge in the complexity of an economy:

“Suppose that each type of productive knowledge is a letter and each product is a word composed of these letters. Like the game of Scrabble, each country holds a set of letters with plenty of copies of each letter and tries to make words out of these letters. For instance, with letters like A, C and T, one can construct words like CAT or ACT. Then our problem of measuring economic complexity resembles interpreting how many different letters there are in each country’s portfolio. Some letters, like A and E, go in many words, whereas other letters, like X and Q, are used in very few. Extending this analogy to the countries and products, only those with a larger diversity of letters will be able to make more and more unique products. On the other hand, words that require more letters will be made only in the countries that have all the requisite pieces.”

complexity scrabble analogy

Not All Exports are Created Equal

Much like the rack of letters in a Scrabble game, the elements of every export-driven economy can be broken down and quantified. The resulting categories encompass everything from rendered pig fat to integrated circuits, each contributing to the country’s overall score.

complexity connectiveness by sector

Agricultural and extractive industries tend to score lower on the complexity scale. Machinery can be highly complex to produce and is connected to many facets of the global economy.

Visualizing this overall mix of categories can provide a unique perspective beyond big picture numbers like GDP. Below are a few real world examples of export markets on both ends of the complexity spectrum.

Japan

Since this ranking began in the mid-1990s, Japan has never been bumped from the top spot.

Due to a restricted land mass and some ingenuity, Japan has become the prototypical example of a low-ubiquity, high-sophistication export economy.

japan economic complexity breakdown

Interactive breakdown

⁨Cars and electronics are obvious standouts, but there numerous other high-value product categories in the mix as well. The country also has a wide variety of high value exports and trading partners, lowering the risk of a trade war or industry downturn crippling the country’s economy.

Australia

Many will be surprised to learn that Australia sits in the lower third of this complexity ranking.

Although Australia’s global ranking is high in a myriad of categories – household wealth per person, for example – its economic complexity score is -0.60, much lower than expected for its income level. Looking at the breakdown below, there are clues as to why this might be the case.

australia economic complexity breakdown

Interactive breakdown

Australia’s⁩ largest exports are in ⁨low⁩ complexity categories, such as minerals and agriculture. To compound matters, the country’s economy is heavily linked to China’s. To underscore this point, a recent study found that a 5% drop in China’s GDP would result in a 2.5% dip in Australia’s.

Venezuela

It’s no secret that Venezuela has seen some tough times in recent years. The chart below shows just how reliant Venezuela was on oil exports to sustain its economy.

venezuela economic complexity breakdown

Interactive breakdown

An over-reliance on a single export can leave a country extremely vulnerable in the event of price volatility or geopolitical events. In the case of Venezuela, three quarters of their export economy was comprised of crude oil – one of the lowest scoring product categories in the ranking.

The Rush to Diversify

A low level of economic complexity isn’t necessarily a problem. Many countries with middle-to-low scores in the ranking have great standards of living and a high level of wealth. Countries like Canada, Norway, and Australia were all well down the list.

On the other hand, some countries have made diversification a priority. SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund is partially the result of Saudi Arabia’s push to develop a diversified, knowledge-based economy. Other oil-rich nations, such as Kazakhstan, are also pushing to diversify in the face of the world’s evolving energy mix.

As world economies evolve and the shift from fossil fuels continues, we will likely see economic complexity increase across the board.

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Technology

How Big Tech Makes Their Billions

The big five tech companies generate almost $900 billion in revenues combined, more than the GDP of four of the G20 nations. Here’s how they earn it all.

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How Big Tech Makes Their Billions

The world’s largest companies are all in technology, and four out of five of those “Big Tech” companies have grown to trillion-dollar market capitalizations.

Despite their similarities, each of the five technology companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet) have very different cashflow breakdowns and growth trajectories. Some have a diversified mix of applications and cloud services, products, and data accumulation, while others have a more singular focus.

But through growth in almost all segments, Big Tech has eclipsed Big Oil and other major industry groups to comprise the most valuable publicly-traded companies in the world. By continuing to grow, these companies have strengthened the financial position of their billionaire founders and led the tech-heavy NASDAQ to new record highs.

Unfortunately, with growth comes difficulty. Data-use, diversity, and treatment of workers have all become hot-button issues on a global scale, putting Big Tech on the defensive with advertisers and governments alike.

Still, even this hasn’t stopped the tech giants from (almost) all posting massive revenue growth.

Revenues for Big Tech Keep Increasing

Across the board, greater technological adoption is the biggest driver of increased revenues.

Amazon earned the most in total revenue compared with last year’s figures, with leaps in almost all of the company’s operations. Revenue from online sales and third-party seller services increased by almost $30 billion, while Amazon Web Services and Amazon Prime saw increased revenues of $15 billion combined.

The only chunk of the Amazon pie that didn’t increase were physical store sales, which have stagnated after previously being the fastest growing segment.

Big Tech Revenues (2019 vs. 2018)

CompanyRevenue (2018)Revenue (2019)Growth (YoY)
Apple$265.6 billion$260.2 billion-2.03%
Amazon$232.9 billion$280.5 billion20.44%
Alphabet$136.8 billion$161.9 billion18.35%
Microsoft$110.4 billion$125.8 billion13.95%
Facebook$55.8 billion$70.8 billion26.88%
Combined$801.5 billion$899.2 billion12.19%

Services and ads drove increased revenues for the rest of Big Tech as well. Alphabet’s ad revenue from Google properties and networks increased by $20 billion. Meanwhile, Google Cloud has seen continued adoption and grown into its own $8.9 billion segment.

For Microsoft, growth in cloud computing and services led to stronger revenue in almost all segments. Most interestingly, growth for Azure services outpaced that of Office and Windows to become the company’s largest share of revenue.

And greater adoption of services and ad integration were a big boost for ad-driven Facebook. Largely due to continued increases in average revenue per user, Facebook generated an additional $20 billion in revenue.

Comparing the Tech Giants

The one company that didn’t post massive revenue increases was Apple, though it did see gains in some revenue segments.

iPhone revenue, still the cornerstone of the business, dropped by almost $25 billion. That offset an almost $10 billion increase in revenue from services and about $3 billion from iPad sales.

However, with net income of $55.2 billion, Apple leads Big Tech in both net income and market capitalization.

Big Tech: The Full Picture

CompanyRevenue (2019)Net Income (2019)Market Cap (July 2020)
Apple$260.2 billion$55.2 billion$1.58 trillion
Amazon$280.5 billion$11.6 billion$1.44 trillion
Alphabet$161.9 billion$34.3 billion$1.02 trillion
Microsoft$125.8 billion$39.2 billion$1.56 trillion
Facebook$70.8 billion$18.5 billion$665.04 billion
Combined$899.2 billion$158.8 billion$6.24 trillion

Bigger Than Countries

They might have different revenue streams and margins, but together the tech giants have grown from Silicon Valley upstarts to global forces.

The tech giants combined for almost $900 billion in revenues in 2019, greater than the GDP of four of the G20 nations. By comparison, Big Tech’s earnings would make it the #18 largest country by GDP, ahead of Saudi Arabia and just behind the Netherlands.

Big Tech earns billions by capitalizing on their platforms and growing user databases. Through increased growth and adoption of software, cloud computing, and ad proliferation, those billions should continue to increase.

As technology use has increased in 2020, and is only forecast to continue growing, how much more will Big Tech be able to earn in the future?

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What Does 1GB of Mobile Data Cost in Every Country?

Globally, the cost of mobile data ranges between $0.09 per GB up to $27 per GB. Here’s how it breaks down in 150+ countries.

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What Does 1GB of Mobile Data Cost in Every Country?

Billions of people around the world rely on their mobile phones every day.

Even in a saturated market, mobile networks have continued to expand their reach. In the last five years alone, almost one billion additional people have gained access to mobile data services.

Despite the growing prevalence of these networks worldwide, the cost of gaining access can vary greatly from country to country—particularly when it comes to the price of mobile data.

Today’s chart uses figures from Cable.co.uk to showcase the average cost of one gigabyte (GB) of mobile data in 155 different countries and jurisdictions. Despite the vast global reach of the mobile economy, it’s clear it still has a long way to go to reach true accessibility.

Discrepancies in Mobile Data Costs

Researchers have identified several key elements that help explain the cost variation for mobile data between countries:

  1. Existing infrastructure (or lack thereof): This might seem counterintuitive, but most mobile networks rely on a fixed-line connection. As a result, countries with existing infrastructure are able to offer mobile plans with more data, at a cheaper price. This is the case for India and Italy. Countries with minimal or no infrastructure rely on more costly connection alternatives like satellites, and the cost typically gets passed down to the consumer.
  2. Reliance on mobile data: When mobile data is the primary source of internet in a particular region, adoption can become nearly universal. This high demand typically leads to an increase in competing providers, which in turn lowers the cost. Kyrgyzstan is a good example of this.
  3. Low data consumption: Countries with poor infrastructure tend to use less data. With mobile plans that offer smaller data limits, the overall average cost per GB tends to skew higher. Countries like Malawi and Benin are examples of this phenomenon.
  4. Average income of consumer: Relatively wealthy nations tend to charge more for mobile services since the population can generally afford to pay more, and the cost of operating a network is higher. This is apparent in countries like Canada or Germany.

The Cheapest Countries for 1 GB of Data

Even among the cheapest countries for mobile data, the cost variation is significant. Here’s a look at the top five cheapest countries for 1 GB of data:

Overall RankCountryAverage price of 1GB (USD)
1🇮🇳 India
2🇮🇱 Israel11¢
3🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan 21¢
4🇮🇹 Italy 43¢
5 🇺🇦 Ukraine46¢

India ranks the cheapest at $0.09 per GB, a 65% decrease in price compared to the country’s average cost in 2019.

Why is data so cheap in India? A significant factor is the country’s intense market competition, driven by Reliance Jio—a telecom company owned by Reliance Industries, one of the largest conglomerates in India. Reliance Jio launched in 2016, offering customers free trial periods and plans for less than a $1 a month. This forced other providers to drop their pricing, driving down the overall cost of data in the region.

Because these prices are likely unsustainable for the long term, India’s cheaper-than-usual prices may soon come to an end.

Another country worth highlighting is Kyrgyzstan, which ranks as the third cheapest at $0.21 per GB, ahead of Italy and Ukraine. This ranking is surprising, given the country’s minimal fixed-line infrastructure and large rural population. Researchers suspect the low cost is a result of Kyrgyzstan’s heavy reliance on mobile data as the population’s primary source of internet.

The Most Expensive Countries for 1 GB of Data

On the other end of the spectrum, here are the top five most expensive countries for one gigabyte of mobile data:

Overall RankCountryAverage price of 1GB (USD)
155🇲🇼 Malawi$27.41
154🇧🇯 Benin$27.22
153🇹🇩 Chad$23.33
152🇾🇪 Yemen$15.98
151🇧🇼 Botswana$13.87

A striking trend worth noting is that four out of five of the most expensive countries for mobile data are in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

A significant factor behind the high cost of data in SSA is its lack of infrastructure. With overburdened networks, the data bundles offered in the region are generally smaller. This drives up the average cost per GB when compared to countries with unlimited packages.

Another element that contributes to SSA’s high costs is its lack of market competition. In countries with multiple competing networks, such as Nigeria, the cost of data skews lower.

The Full Breakdown

The below table has a full list of all 155 countries and jurisdictions included in the data set. It helps demonstrate the stark contrast in the cost of mobile data between the most expensive and cheapest countries globally.

RankCountryAverage price of 1GB (USD)
1India
2Israel11¢
3Kyrgyzstan21¢
4Italy43¢
5Ukraine46¢
6Kazakhstan46¢
7Somalia50¢
8Sri Lanka51¢
9Russian Federation52¢
10Vietnam57¢
11China61¢
12Sudan63¢
13Indonesia64¢
14Algeria65¢
15Australia68¢
16Pakistan69¢
17Poland70¢
18Bangladesh70¢
19Chile71¢
20Turkey72¢
21Tanzania73¢
22Dominican Republic74¢
23Mongolia74¢
24Iran75¢
25Kuwait77¢
26Myanmar78¢
27Denmark80¢
28France81¢
29Nepal86¢
30Belarus89¢
31Georgia93¢
32Ghana94¢
33Monaco98¢
34Western Sahara99¢
35Morocco99¢
36Brazil$1.01
37Romania$1.03
38Jordan$1.03
39Kenya$1.05
40Armenia$1.05
41Austria$1.08
42Egypt$1.09
43Moldova$1.12
44Malaysia$1.12
45Thailand$1.23
46Estonia$1.27
47Uzbekistan$1.34
48Ireland$1.36
49Zambia$1.36
50Tunisia$1.37
51Nigeria$1.39
52United Kingdom$1.39
53Philippines$1.42
54El Salvador$1.45
55Argentina$1.45
56Rwanda$1.48
57Slovenia$1.48
58Cambodia$1.50
59Afghanistan$1.55
60Uruguay$1.58
61Serbia$1.60
62Uganda$1.62
63Nicaragua$1.71
64Macedonia$1.75
65Spain$1.81
66Lithuania$1.85
67Azerbaijan$1.86
68Congo$1.94
69Sweden$2.07
70Guinea$2.08
71Timor-Leste$2.08
72Saudi Arabia$2.12
73Burundi$2.12
74Peru$2.13
75Lesotho$2.13
76Finland$2.14
77Guatemala$2.17
78Bulgaria$2.22
79Bahrain$2.27
80Paraguay$2.30
81Ethiopia$2.44
82Singapore$2.47
83Burkina Faso$2.47
84Croatia$2.48
85Mauritius$2.48
86Hong Kong$2.55
87Haiti$2.74
88Costa Rica$2.74
89Cameroon$2.75
90Albania$2.83
91Netherlands$2.98
92Bosnia and Herzegovina$3.04
93Honduras$3.12
94Côte d'Ivoire$3.20
95Ecuador$3.24
96Liberia$3.25
97Palestine$3.26
98Niger$3.30
99Senegal$3.30
100Mozambique$3.33
101Colombia$3.46
102Sierra Leone$3.69
103United Arab Emirates$3.78
104Latvia$3.79
105Lebanon$3.82
106Slovakia$3.84
107Jamaica$3.88
108Japan$3.91
109Germany$4.06
110Qatar$4.12
111Guinea-Bissau$4.12
112Mali$4.12
113Lao PDR$4.16
114Iraq$4.20
115South Africa$4.30
116Togo$4.50
117Oman$4.58
118Mauritania$4.63
119Tajikistan$4.65
120Libya$4.73
121Mexico$4.77
122Namibia$4.78
123Belgium$4.88
124Gabon$4.89
125Portugal$4.97
126Bolivia$5.09
127Gambia$5.10
128Norway$5.28
129Angola$5.29
130Hungary$5.32
131Papua New Guinea$5.40
132Taiwan$5.91
133Trinidad and Tobago$5.92
134New Zealand$6.06
135Syria$6.55
136Panama$6.69
137Czech Republic$7.95
138United States$8.00
139Central African Republic$8.25
140Switzerland$8.38
141Madagascar$8.81
142Puerto Rico$9.17
143South Korea$10.94
144Turkmenistan$11.44
145Greece$12.06
146Canada$12.55
147Equatorial Guinea$12.78
148Eswatini$13.31
149Cuba$13.33
150Cyprus$13.56
151Botswana$13.87
152Yemen$15.98
153Chad$23.33
154Benin$27.22
155Malawi$27.41

Interestingly, the highest average cost is 30,000% more than the cheapest average price.

The Technology Gap

Will we reach a point of equal accessibility across the globe, or will the technology gap between countries continue to widen?

With 5G networks on the rise, just seven countries are expected to make up the majority of 5G related investments. Time will tell what this means for adoption worldwide.

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