Once upon a time, high-tech products were only found in cutting edge offices or in the houses of the very wealthy. Now, technology is everywhere—in our homes, our workplaces, our gyms, and of course, in our pockets!
The advances in technology over the last century and the subsequent increase in demand from consumers have led to the technology industry becoming one of the most profitable in the world. In 2016, $1.6 trillion was spent on media content and technology, an increase of 8% from the previous year.
It is hardly surprising that countries around the world want to make sure that they get their share of consumer and business spending on technology. As a matter of fact, 24% of global research and development spending in 2016 was on computing and electronics–the highest of any industry sector–while spending in the software and internet sector came in at 12%.
Many countries have really embraced this technological revolution, growing their own domestic technology industries and exporting their innovative products around the world. This in turn has boosted their own GDP as well as their reputation worldwide for producing top-notch technology products.
The countries on the list below are among the most high-tech in the world. Are you surprised by any of them?
Malaysia may be a relative newcomer to the technology industry, but it is now home to computing companies like Vitrox Corp, manufacturer of the semiconductors and microchips which are essential if your high-end technology products are to work effectively. In fact, in 2017, Malaysia’s technology stocks hit a ten-year high, and Vitrox alone experienced a 24% increase in its share price in the same year. Experts predict that the digital economy will be responsible for 20% of Malaysia’s GDP by around 2020, fueled in part by the innovative startups program which has been launched in the Southeast Asian country.
France’s technology industry is well-established as one of the best in the world, thanks to its early success in car manufacturing and their willingness to embrace nuclear energy. The country regularly places highly in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, which recognizes the fastest-growing tech companies in these regions. In 2016, France had the highest number of entries on the list, with 96 companies, including the 5th placed company, Horizontal Software, which experienced growth of 8,339% over the previous three years. France has now set about enticing tech brains from around the world by offering visas to anyone willing to set up or invest in a technology startup.
Israel is another new kid on the block when it comes to technology, but young Israelis are embracing the opportunities offered by smartphone technology to launch their own startups developing apps or going a step further and coming up with innovative ideas in other fields such as motor vehicles and even weaponry. In March of 2017, Israel saw the biggest tech deal in its short history, when Intel bought local autonomous driving company MobileEye for an eye-watering $15.3 billion. International tech firms are catching on to the opportunities presented by Israel and its educated young population, and over 300 of them now have a research center or other facilities in the country.
Gone are the dark days of Soviet Russia, when technology was all about beating the Americans to the punch. Now, young entrepreneurs and rich old oligarchs alike are seeing the potential in high-tech industries, and the country’s economy is changing accordingly. The biggest companies may still be those involved in the oil and gas industry, but a 2013 report found that IT companies held two of the top ten places when it came to fastest growing businesses—something that would have been unheard of just a few years before. And, of course, we all know about Russia’s prowess when it comes to computer hacking.
Finland—land of snow, saunas, spirits (of the alcoholic variety), and now cellphones. Mobile phone giant, Nokia, is based in the country, and though their simple handsets have been somewhat surpassed by the iPhone, the innovations made by the Finnish company in the ‘80s and ‘90s led the way for the smartphones of the future. Now, startups in the country are all about software, not hardware, with some of the biggest-selling mobile games also hailing from the Scandinavia country, including the perennially popular Angry Birds from games developer Rovio and Clash of Clans, made by Supercell.
On the other side of the world, Australia is also making the most of the 21st century digital obsession. Figures from 2015 showed that the digital economy now accounts for 5.1% of the Antipodean country’s GDP and an impressive 22% of its workforce. Some of the top home-grown tech companies include Sportstec, a digital tool for analyzing the performances of elite athletes, which was acquired by tech giant Hudl. Many of the world’s biggest tech companies have also seen the potential in the Australian market and have opened offices and research facilities in the country, which just happens to be perfectly located for reaching that lucrative Asian market too!
Some of Finland’s technological entrepreneurship must have rubbed off on its neighbor, Sweden, which is also known for its innovation in the field of mobile phone technology. In fact, Sweden was one of the few countries which actually managed to grow its economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, largely thanks to the success of its tech firms with a little help from a certain furniture retailer, of course! Hardware manufacturers such as Ericsson, who used to dominate the marketplace, now have to share with new kids Spotify, Skype, and Torrent—companies that use the flexibility of the internet for better communication and sharing of information, ideas, and music.
Canada might not be the first country that springs to mind when you think of technological innovations. In fact, the scale of the country’s tech industry took Canada itself by surprise, when a 2016 report found that the sector was outperforming both finance and insurance. Technology companies generated $117 billion out of the country’s overall $51 trillion GDP and accounted for almost 6% of the workforce. Canada even has its own “Silicon Valley” in Kitchener and Waterloo, suburbs of Toronto, where hardware companies sit alongside software developers and those startups embracing the opportunities presented by mobile phone apps.
7 United Kingdom
Britain may have once ruled the waves, but the United Kingdom has lost ground to much younger countries when it comes to technology. Nevertheless, the country is still home to some successful tech firms, and all the big international companies still want an office with a London address! One of the biggest tech firms in the UK is Sage, which develops accounting software that has been sold all around the world and that allows users to even do complex accounts on an iPad. We agree that it's not very sexy, but every company needs to balance the books at the end of the day, right?
Some people might be surprised to see India in a list of most high-tech countries in this world, but this emerging economy has really embraced the opportunities afforded by the technology sector. Figures suggest that India’s technology industry could have generated as much as $160 billion in 2016-17—almost 10% of the country’s GDP. And India’s success isn’t all down to the outsourcing of call centers, although that is a major source of employment for young educated Indians. The country has its fair share of success stories, including technology consulting company Infosys, which now operates around the world after starting with an investment of just $250.
Mao Tse-tung would be rolling in his grave if he could see how his beloved China had embraced capitalism and capitalist technology in particular. The country has enjoyed impressive economic growth and aims to generate 60% of its GDP from science and technology by 2020, according to a five-year plan launched in 2016. Hardware firms like Huawei have started their assault on the smartphone market, while Baidu, the Chinese Google, continues to dominate the domestic market with more than 70 million active users. Perhaps the best known Chinese tech export is Alibaba, a retail website that very much feels like an online Aladdin’s cave and which sells everything from electronics to real estate services.
Germany has a long history as a success story in hi-tech manufacturing, especially when it comes to cars, but they are also making ground when it comes to technical innovation and leading the way in Europe when it comes to technology, spending 3% of its GDP on research and development in 2014, the equivalent of $116 billion. Siemens, once known as a manufacturer of mobile phones, now have fingers in all sorts of technological pies–everything from transportation to renewable energy–while SoundCloud is one of the new generation’s big success stories—a site which allows musicians and DJs to upload compositions.
3 South Korea
Considering how late a bloomer South Korea was when it came to technology, the Asian nation has more than made up for lost time in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In 1960, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world–about as rich as Ghana–yet in 2015, it was the 14th largest economy in the world, and most of that growth was driven by technology. South Korea is keen to encourage tech startups, but they are also home to some of the most successful technology companies on the planet. Companies like Samsung, which was the second largest tech firm in the world in 2017, boasting $174 billion in sales, is the pride of South Korea.
South Korea’s Asian neighbor has been in the tech game a little longer, but Japan is still a relative newcomer to the sector. Despite the country’s success and its obsession with electronic gadgets and having the latest devices, the government is keen to grow this sector and eventually announced a plan to invest an additional 1% of the country’s GDP every year on science and technology in 2016–equivalent to about 26 trillion yen over five years–especially tech innovation and small-scale startups. Japan’s top tech companies are household names to people across the world. These include Sony, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, and Panasonic, among many others.
Still at the very top of the tree when it comes to high tech success, the United States of America can boast 6.7 million workers in the technology industry. A 2015 report found that 6% of the country’s GDP was brought in simply by the internet economy, let alone all the rest of the technology sector. Of course, the main reason for this is the success of US-based firm, Apple. When Apple hit its high of an $800-billion market cap in 2017, it meant that this one company was effectively 16th in the list of national GDP figures and was bigger than the combined net worth of the world’s ten richest people, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates.