Czech Republic makes modest progress towards digital future

Photo: Tomáš Adamec

The Czech Republic has been given a modest rating for its progress paving the way and putting the country on the digital superhighway. Countries, like Singapore and Hong Kong, which made a determined effort to become regional digital centres, lead the pack but the likes of Estonia and Slovenia show that the Czech Republic could have a realistic chance of doing a lot better.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec
Czech Minister of Transport Dan Ťok returned recently from a government trip to South Korea proudly brandishing a digital chip card. With the South Korean card almost everything could be bought or settled from metro and railway tickets, to road tolls and taxi fares. Back in Prague though the nearest equivalent maybe to the all-doing and dancing Korean chip card is the Prague Opencard. And there the story is of never ending legal wrangles and the distinct possibility that the cards will be scrapped for good and City Hall will go back to paper coupons.

Meanwhile talks continue about the possibilities of electronic voting in Czech elections and digital tax declarations and other transactions with institutions. On the international scene the Czech Republic has not made a major impact on the digital scene. The sorry facts are related in the latest annual assessment by the US-based Fletcher School. The reports, which have been coming out since 2008 from the US institution, give a snapshot of where a country now as regards digital developments, but also an idea of where it is going.

The Czech Republic is placed 31st out of 50 countries on the current ranking, sandwiched between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But while the last two countries as tipped as countries where digital technology and use could take off rapidly, the Czech Republic is labelled as one where developments have stalled.

So-called stalled out countries are far from uncommon, the United Kingdom is also reckoned to have stalled out, so are Finland and the Netherlands. The fact is that they are taking what amounts to a digital breather after having already moved a long way in digital developments and are already in the world top 10 overall. The Czech Republic does not really have the luxury to the rest on its laurels.

The Czech overall digital development score comes in at 31.87 points, just over half that of the most developed countries such as Singapore, Sweden, and Hong Kong. The Czech Republic’s strongest card is the supply of digital and business infrastructure with a respectable showing also for the public’s ability and willingness to perform digital transactions.

The weak points are the ability and willingness of government and other institutions to foster the transfer to digital transactions and the level of real innovation in digital technology. On this last point, the Czech Republic has one of the lowest scores of the 50 countries surveyed.

Other countries with a similar background to the Czech Republic have proved they can go a lot further in developing the digital environment and economy. Estonia is ranked 24th on the table and is dubbed a ‘stand out’ country as regards its potential. Slovenia is in 28th place and is described as a ‘watch out’ country. Slovakia, while trailing the Czech Republic in 36th place overall, is also described as being in the same category that can expect rapid development.