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Which Countries Are Leading the Data Economy?

Which countries are the top data producers? After all, with data-fueled applications of artificial intelligence projected, by McKinsey, to generate $13 trillion in new global economic activity by 2030, this could determine the next world order, much like the role that oil production has played in creating economic power players in the preceding century.

While China and the U.S. could emerge as two AI superpowers, data sources can’t be limited to concentrations in a few places as we have with an oil-driven economy — it needs to be drawn from many, diverse sources and future AI applications will emerge from new and unexpected players. The new world order taking shape is likely to be more complex than a simple bi-polar structure, especially since data is being produced at a pace that boggles the mind.

Building on our past work mapping the digital evolution and digital competitiveness of different countries around the world, we wanted to try to locate the deepest and widest pools of useful data. This is essential to run the myriad machine learning models critical to AI. To do so, it is useful to make a distinction between the raw volume of data and a measure that we shall call “gross data product” – our version of the new GDP. To identify the world’s top “gross data product” producers, we propose using four criteria:

  1. Volume: Absolute amount of broadband consumed by a country, as a proxy for the raw data generated.

  2. Usage: Number of users active on the internet, as a proxy for the breadth of usage behaviors, needs and contexts.

  3. Accessibility: Institutional openness to data flows as a way to assess whether the data generated in a country permits wider usability and accessibility by multiple AI researchers, innovators, and applications.

  4. Complexity: Volume of broadband consumption per capita, as a proxy for the sophistication and complexity of digital activity.