The internet’s rub

The Economist has always championed free trade, open markets and vigorous competition in the physical world. And we have argued that the same principles should be applied on the internet. Yet whereas research on trade barriers in the offline world abounds, much less is known about what slows the free flow of information online and the effect this has on economic growth. A new study by the Boston Consulting Group, to be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, sheds some light on the issue. Entitled “Greasing the Wheels of the Internet Economy”, its purpose is to make it easier to identify points of friction that hold back the digital economy.At the heart of the report is an “e-friction” index. The authors took no fewer than 55 indicators (from “internet bandwidth per capita” and “average mobile connection speed” to “strength of intellectual property protection” and “press freedom”) and calculated a score for each of the 65 countries covered, which rises the higher the friction.

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