Are the countries structurally sound?
Preparing for the future means getting the basics in place first. Our Infrastructure and Communication and Technology metrics look at factors like ease of transport, how much (or how little, as the case may be) countries are investing in their infrastructure, and access to 5G, mobile phones, the internet and social media. So, which countries have what they need to expand their land, ease movement and get connected?
Singapore comes top for investing in infrastructure, and Norway and France respectively follow close behind. From our 30 countries where data was available, the USA scores lowest with China second-to-last. Despite being one of the global superpowers, our cousins across the pond have the biggest infrastructure investment gap in the world!
As for comms and tech, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) takes the crown, with South Korea and Norway in second and third place. Ethiopia scores lowest here, with India in second-to-last place and Rwanda third.
According to futurist Matthew Griffin, we'll need to get cosy with advanced computer technology to become well prepared for the future. "Prime examples of countries trying to shape their economies today so they can 'own' the future are China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE and others. This can be seen in Saudi Arabia's half-a-trillion-dollar smart city Meon and the fleets of robo-taxis in Dubai and Singapore."
These countries represent the quintessential 'throuple', marrying infrastructure, communication and technology.
Which countries let their policies do the talking?
They say actions speak louder than words, but these specific words matter. Policies are the backbone of countries, and future-thinking nations would do well to focus on the environment and the economy. After all, we need a healthy planet to live on, and a healthy wallet to keep us afloat.
We looked at metrics like the availability of renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, as well as their ability to prepare their youth for the workplace, preparedness for AI, gender equality in industry and corruption.
So, which countries shine bright economically? Singapore gets the top spot, followed by Germany and Switzerland, while South America's Guyana is at the bottom of our list of 30. As for environmental policies, Norway has a significant lead, with Switzerland in second place and Brazil in third. Why do Brazil score so well? Their high level of renewable energy gives them a significant boost on the environmental front. At the bottom of the scale is the UAE, scoring low because of its poor outdoor air quality.
Matthew notes that "most government strategy and investment cycles span decades, which means they have to do their best to envision the deep future, with the future of education, jobs, and skills being a prime example, as well as the future of communications, energy, healthcare, infrastructure, and mobility." Okay, that's a lot of balls in the air!
Do countries even care?
We've paid a lot of lip service to the fundamentals that make up a country, but you can't have a country without people (go ahead, prove us wrong). So, how do countries stack up in their support for their citizens?
Our human rights and liberties metrics looked at inclusiveness and religious tolerance, access to basic education, personal (political) freedom, censorship and healthcare. Norway gets first place once again, scoring top marks for all but one of our metrics. For healthcare, South Korea is miles ahead, while France and Japan follow.
While the human touch can't fail to give us that fuzzy feeling, it's not to say that machines have no place in humanity. Matthew says "‘Creative Machines' – or the combination of AI-fuelled platforms and simulated environments – can help innovate new products and health treatments in real time.
"Think we live in an on-demand world today? You'll be amazed by what we might achieve in the future."
Prepare for global conflict
As a futurist, Matthew is used to thinking about warfare. He sees it taking two major forms in the future – cyber warfare in our computers and connected devices – and traditional warfare.
“No country can survive a nuclear-style war,” he says. Most experts agree that if we do have another major world war, nuclear weapons would be involved (hence that column of zeroes above!)
So, what about cyber warfare? Matthew says "new and emerging exponential technologies are more accessible, democratised, global and powerful than ever. It's a great opportunity to collaborate on a worldwide scale, but there is a dark side.
"Nefarious individuals can use them to create powerful apocalyptic weapons platforms that can cause huge suffering at a speed and scale unlike anything we've ever seen before. We're massively underprepared for what I call ‘sentient AIs and robo-hackers'."
To survive the cyber battle, countries need to take robust cyber security measures. According to Comparitech, Germany are leading the way here, with Japan, Canada and the UK also holding strong. And if war does break out, you might want to seek solace in the world's most peaceful countries. Canada, Singapore and Japan are top contenders for this. We've suddenly got a hankering for maple syrup...
Let's think economically
"It's ironic," says Matthew. "The more economically mature a country is, the more likely it is that its own futuristic ambitions are outshone by others." Potentially, countries that think their economies had good form in the past might be less likely to take steps to keep it protected in the long term.
This could be why countries like Bangladesh, China, Côte d'Ivoire and Indonesia are all predicted to come out of the Great Lockdown Recession of 2020 the strongest, while countries with higher GDPs like the USA and UK languor in the middle.
Another aspect that helps bolster an economy is a country's ability to be self-sustaining. If a post-apocalyptic world sees all trade routes cut off, which countries will survive? According to the Global Food Security Index, famously neutral Switzerland is the best from our list of countries. Turns out après ski doubles as survival camp. Who knew?
Shield the world, make it a better place
"Climate change is one of humanity's greatest challenges," says Matthew. Countries that can ensure their climate game is strong will be better prepared for the future.
Germanwatch's Climate Risk Index for 1998-2018 looked at how well countries bounced back after natural and environmental events over a 20-year period – and gave them a score for the future. The logic being, if they did well in the past, they'll respond well to any future natural disasters. The island nation of Singapore comes up top here, with the United Arab Emirates, Côte d'Ivoire and Norway following respectively. Should disaster strike, these countries will likely be better at recovering than others on our list.
Climate change is likely going to lead to weather extremes – with countries experiencing some of the hottest, coldest and most unpredictable weather in their histories. Before you run out and buy all the sunblock – or the thickest winter jacket you can get your hands on – find out if your country is at risk of extreme weather.
The World Risk Report says Saudi Arabia is least likely to be affected by extreme weather. Five countries in Europe follow, with Canada and the United States in 7th and 8th place respectively. Countries in the danger zone (climate-wise) include Nigeria, Bangladesh and Guyana.
Hypothetically, what if there's a pandemic?
We won't tell you where we got the inspiration for this metric, but we asked Matthew what futurists have to say about worldwide pandemics.
"Futurists have predicted this many times over the past two decades," he said. "Epidemics and pandemics have become increasingly possible and plausible for many reasons, such as humanity's continued incursion into natural spaces. When you combine a novel, contagious deadly virus with an increasingly globalised and connected society, it stands to reason that it'd spread faster than we can find a cure."
From a prediction perspective, the Global Health Security Index looks how well countries can prevent, detect and respond to global public health emergencies. We'd put money on you not guessing that the United States comes out on top, with the UK following close behind. Other countries with good scores include the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and South Korea.
Fortunately, as Matthew points out, "tracking and tracing these pandemics today would be simpler than in the past. Whether that's using real-time gene sequencing systems, smart devices or technologies such as AI and advanced manufacturing to shorten the time to design, test, and deploy vaccines." Tech to the rescue?
Matthew Griffin, described as "The Adviser behind the Advisers" and a "Young Kurzweil," is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute. The latter is a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070. Matthew is an award-winning futurist, and author of the "Codex of the Future" series.
He’s regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, Viacom, and WIRED. Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, and innovation and strategy experts, Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multinationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future.
We assessed 30 countries on 19 different factors related to how well the country is prepared for progress in the near future, as well as 9 factors related to how well the country might handle hypothetical events that have been popularly predicted by futurists as possibilities in the next 20-30 years. All data was collected in September 2020. To standardise our results and help rank the countries, a formula was applied to rank each factor evenly between 1-10. The formula used was:
Score(i) = 10 * ( ( (x(i) - x(min) ) / ( (x(max) - x(min) ) )
A final score was calculated by adding up the points awarded across all 28 factors.
Each of the ‘current preparedness’ categories have 3-4 factors within them that were used as the basis for assessment (with the exception of the health category, which only had 1 factor). The formula above was applied to each those factors, with the final category score derived by adding up the rankings for each factor within each category separately, and applying the formula above to that sum total.
Each of the ‘potential future events’ categories have only 1 factor to measure the country’s potential response and resilience should the event occur.
- Infrastructure – Ease of transport (logistics performance index: quality of trade and transport-related infrastructure; date of data: 2018 unless otherwise stated). Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/LP.LPI.INFR.XQ
- Infrastructure –Infrastructure investment (infrastructure investment gap in billions of Euros; data is updated regularly). Source: https://outlook.gihub.org/
- Infrastructure – Traffic deaths (deaths/100,000 people; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Communication and technology – Mobile coverage (% of population; date of data: 2016). Source: https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/Mobile_network_coverage/
- Communication and technology – 5G coverage (5G rollouts and commercial availability; a score of 10 was given to countries with 5G deployments, 6.67 to countries with limited 5G availability, 3.33 to countries with 5G at pre-release stage and 0 to countries with no 5G/no data; data is updated regularly). Source: https://www.speedtest.net/ookla-5g-map
- Communication and technology – Internet access (internet users as % of population; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Communication and technology – Social media access (% of population with access to social media; date of data: 2020). Sources: https://www.statista.com/statistics/282846/regular-social-networking-usage-penetration-worldwide-by-country/ & https://datareportal.com/
- Environmental policies – Renewable energy availability (renewable energy consumption, world; date of data: 2019). Source: https://ourworldindata.org/renewable-energy
- Environmental policies – Greenhouse gas emissions (date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Environmental policies – Outdoor air pollution (attributable deaths to outdoor air pollution; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Human rights and liberties – Inclusiveness (inclusiveness and religious tolerance; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Human rights and liberties – Basic education (government expenditure on education as % of GDP; date of data: latest available per country). Source: http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?q=education&d=UNESCO&f=series%3aXGDP_FSGOV
- Human rights and liberties – Personal freedoms (political rights; freedom of expression; freedom of religion; access to justice; property rights for women; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Human rights and liberties – Media censorship (media censorship; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.socialprogress.org/index/global
- Economic policies – Workforce preparedness (unemployment, youth total (% of total labour force ages 15-24) (modelled ILO estimate); date of data: 2019). Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.ZS
- Economic policies – Women in the workforce (Gender Inequality Index (GII) - labour force participation rate; date of data: 2018). Source: http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/table-5-gender-inequality-index-gii
- Economic policies – Corruption and transparency (Corruption Perceptions Index; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi#
- Economic policies – Government preparedness for AI (AI readiness; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.oxfordinsights.com/ai-readiness2019
- Healthcare – Healthcare Index (Health Care Index by Country 2020 Mid-Year; date of data: June 2020). Source: https://www.numbeo.com/health-care/rankings_by_country.jsp · Cyber Warfare – Cybersecurity (date of data: 2020). Source: https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/cybersecurity-by-country/
- Traditional Warfare – World War III (date of data: 2020). Source: Matthew Griffin
- World War – Global Peace Index (date of data: 2020). Source: http://visionofhumanity.org/indexes/global-peace-index/
- Economic downturns – The Great Lockdown Recession (annual percentage change - projections 2021 - real GDP; date of data: 2020). Source: https://www.imf.org/~/media/Files/Publications/WEO/2020/April/English/StatsAppendixA.ashx?la=en
- Economy downturns – Trade routes halted (Global Food Security Index; date of data: 2019). Source: https://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/Index/AdjustmentFactorRankings
- Natural events – Climate change (Table 4: Climate Risk Index for 1999–2018; date of data: December 2019). Source: https://germanwatch.org/en/cri
- Natural events – Extreme weather conditions (World Risk Report; date of data: 2020). Source: https://weltrisikobericht.de/english/
- Pandemic – Health security (Global Health Security Index; date of data: 2019). Source: https://www.ghsindex.org/
- Future smartphones - Phones per person (smartphone penetration % of population; date of data: 2019 unless stated otherwise). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_smartphone_penetration
- Countries sourced via IMF World Economic Outlook Database October 2019, Nasdaq Fastest Growing Economies 2019; Matthew Griffin.