Business

You should know what a ‘digital tiger’ economy is, you might be living in one

By Oliver Smith 19 July 2016
Summary

Yes it's a vacuous buzzword, but it's probably one you should know.

Britain is “lagging behind ‘Digital Tiger Economies’”, shouted a new piece of research from Barclays this morning.

The report, Barclays Digital Development Index, measures both how tech-savvy a country’s population is and how governments are empowering their workforces digitally.

Some of the figures within the report are worrying, for instance only 16% of people in the UK would be very comfortable building a website, compared to 39% in Brazil and 37% in India.

The headline of Britain “lagging” is somewhat misleading however, as we actually came 4th overall, narrowly behind Sweden, and South Korea and Estonia who tied for joint 1st place.

But I’m left with just one question after reading the report.

Just what the hell is a ‘digital tiger’ economy anyway?

It’s not the first time we’ve come across some bizarre terms in the world of technology and finance, see unicorns, native advertising and ‘disruption’ to name but a few.

Digital Tiger economies, a term used frequently by Barclays UK CEO Ashok Vaswani, has a strange definition.

Traditionally a “tiger economy” is a nickname given to a country in the midst of rapid economic growth, typically in Southeast Asia (hence the ‘tiger’)

South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore were originally known as the Four Asian Tigers, and the moniker expanded to include a number of other Asian countries.

What makes a ‘digital tiger’ different?

Which brings us to the ‘digital tiger’.

In Barclays report and in Vaswani’s speeches he uses the phrase to refer to the likes of South Korea, and also to Estonia, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Basically any Asian or European country experiencing strong economic growth as a direct result of expansion in their digital and tech sectors. Even ones that have no link to any tigers…

Yes it’s a vacuous economist buzzword that should be banned immediately, but it’s also a phrase that you’re probably going to hear more and more often in the media as digital economies grow.

And because, by its definition, Britain should probably be counted as a ‘digital tiger’ economy too.

UPDATE 2016-07-19 – A Barclays spokesperson told The Memo that: “‘Digital Tigers’ is a term used by Barclays to describe the top performers within The Barclays Digital Development Index.”