We see the world entering the new stage of the digital revolution: the shift of focus from quantity of penetration of the Internet access – the primary digitalization - to the quality of its usage by consumers, businesses, administrations, i. e. the secondary digitalization. A parallel development is the emergence of the key cities as the powerful loci of the socio-economic development, sometimes overshadowing in importance the states. More and more the personal and business choices are made between, say, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Moscow, rather than China, India and Russia. This brings a new phenomenon of global competitiveness of cities with focus on quality of and opportunities for life.
Digital plays increasing role both in the perceived quality of life and the opportunities for earning and personal development. Up to recently the cities were competing in the digital field on the capacity and diversity of infrastructure of access to the Internet – the “gross connectivity” which was available to customers. As there were certain difficulties with measuring this connectivity directly the usual proxy was the % of population going online on a regular basis. The growth of this % of “penetration” could be seen as the measure of the progress of the “primary digitalization”. While the issue of building penetration is important in many emerging markets in rural areas and smaller towns – as well as in the lower income population strata – in most of the major cities the access to the digital networks is already broad enough. E. g. in Kenya an urban family is more likely to have a mobile phone, than kitchen utensils or bed cloths.
With the rapid progress of all sorts of Internet access – fixed wired, fixed wireless (Wi Fi) and mobile (3G, 4G, etc.) – the measurement of the quantitative side of Internet penetration ceases to be a proper indicator of the state of digitalization of a certain city or nation. Now the majority of the population stays connected almost 24/7. A measurement of the quality of the digital systems – their diversity, overall number of actors, strength of the digital businesses and communities – is required. It is this measurement that can show the effects of the digitalization, the value that they produce. Such measurement can be an effective tool in understanding the relative achievements and gaps of the key cities of the emerging markets, informing international and national business strategies and policy decisions of the local administrations. The research report of SKOLKOVO IEMS presents the result of measurement of the digitalization of the everyday life in key Russian megapolices and analyzes the opportunities that emerge for global, national and local business in this field. The research project was undertaken in partnership with EY, a global leader in enabling the digital transformation of business.