The UAE beats out most of the world in a ranking of the most highly connected consumers. Hong Kong and North America lead the list, but people in the United Arab Emirates are closing in fast. As the country with the second-highest smartphone penetration, the UAE jumped five spots to third place in 2015.
The new GfK Connected Consumer Index is a ranking of 78 countries and eight world regions that provides fast and direct comparison of how highly connected each population is.
The index shows which countries have the world's most connected consumers, both overall and in detail across each of eleven different device types (smartphone, tablet, mobile PC, desktop PC, wearables, smart TV, TV set-top box, videogame console, e-reader, connected car and smart home), together with trends over the last five years.
It allows businesses to compare how connected the individual countries and regions are, in order to spot market opportunities across a range of industries. This includes areas stretching from digital device sales and content consumption to expansion of traditional technology into health and media and beyond.
Looking at the GfK Connected Consumer Index ranking for the last two years, Hong Kong and North America (USA, Canada and Mexico) hold steady as having the world's top two most highly connected populations.
However, people in the UAE are fast closing that lead, jumping from eighth place in 2015 to a forecasted third place this year. Similarly, Switzerland has overtaken Denmark and Sweden to move up from tenth place last year to a forecasted eighth place this year.
"We are seeing some macro trend increases in connectivity across all countries. For high growth markets, especially across the Middle East, Africa and emerging APAC, the dominant trend remains smartphone adoption,” says Kevin Walsh, Director of Trends and Forecasting at GfK.
“This is the primary device - and often the first device - for consumers to connect to data services. This trend is likely to remain dominant for the next two to three years as pricing reductions means over one billion consumers will be able to afford to connect with a personal device for the first time.
“For developed markets, primarily Western Europe and North America, the growth drivers have already moved to the next wave of consumer connectivity. Wearables are leading the way, together with connected cars - and both these are providing new consumer benefits. Smart home technology is an equally significant opportunity, but expected to be slower and steadier in terms of the consumer adoption curve,” he adds.
Other countries that the Index reveals as having made a significant leap forwards in the past year, in terms of the connectivity of their populations, are Chile and Jordan.
Chile has climbed seven places from 27th place in 2015 to 20th place this year, and now stands just behind Italy, Ireland and Australia. And Jordan has jumped from 31st place last year to 23rd place - overtaking countries including Cyprus, Oman, New Zealand and Belgium.
Individual country drivers are also significant. Chile, despite having a weaker economy, has a relatively favourable regulatory environment for investment, as well as high broadband penetration compared to the rest of Latin America. This has meant Smart TV sales again increased by over 20 per cent last year, and GfK forecasts further growth of another 12 per cent this year.
Walsh continues, “As technology markets mature, we are increasingly seeing that local country drivers are having a relatively bigger impact on growth, as opposed to global or regional trends - with consumers connecting in ever bigger numbers and different ways.”