“Is It Hype or Reality?”: A Global Study of Assessing the Rate of Digitalization

“Is It Hype or Reality?”: A Global Study of Assessing the Rate of Digitalization

Mahikala Niranga, Darshana Sedera
Copyright: © 2025 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7366-5.ch049
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The researchers commenced this study expecting to discover ample evidence of global digitalization – especially attributed to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Yet, the investigation using multiple highly credible indicators of digitalization for a period of 3 years (2018 to 2020), covering pre, during, and post-pandemic, the researchers could only identify partial evidence of a high rate of digitalization, and many of the countries slowed down their respective rates of digitalization. This study showed that only 61 of sampled countries demonstrated a high rate of digitalization, while the 96 remaining countries slowed down their digitalization rates. Considering the purported ‘hype of digitalization' spreading across the globe, notwithstanding the boundaries of geography and resources, the researchers appeal to academia and practice to witness the authentic indicators of digitalization in this global study.
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Digitalization has become one of the most pronounced buzzwords in the corporate literature and academic press in the last decade (Adikari et al., 2021; Frost & Duan, 2020; Gavrila & De Lucas Ancillo, 2021; Lokuge et al., 2019; Sedera, Tan, et al., 2022; Webb et al., 2021). The impact of digitalization has been attributed to high productivity (Kravchenko et al., 2019; Niranga et al., 2022a; Sedera & Lokuge, 2019), hyper-customization (Jain, 2018; Lokuge & Sedera, 2014; Sedera et al., 2016) and more broadly high competitiveness (Chung et al., 2017; Langley et al., 2021). Business operations can be made more effective, consistent, and high-quality with the help of digitization, which facilitates improved customer service (Lokuge et al., 2018). Additionally, it has given businesses a number of distinctive skills and improvement prospects (Rachinger et al., 2019; Reis et al., 2020). As such, much of the anecdotal commentary reported in the commercial press suggests that the world has never seen this rate of increase in digitalization, especially during the past decade (Gorenšek & Kohont, 2018; Sedera, Lokuge, et al., 2022).

Digitalization prior to the advent of digital technologies like social, mobile, analytics and cloud was expensive (Sedera et al., 2002; Urbach & Röglinger, 2019). It required substantial resources, and appropriately there were substantial differences between rich countries and developing countries, creating a digital divide that favors more resourceful countries (Aissaoui, 2021; Qureshi & Davis, 2007). However, with the cost of digital technologies reaching near zero (Lokuge et al., 2021; Sedera & Lokuge, 2018, 2020b; Sedera, Lokuge, et al., 2022) in some applications, and with the purported productivity benefits of digitalization, countries are said to be embarking on a rapid rate of digitalization (Kravchenko et al., 2019; Niranga et al., 2022a). Such endeavors are further supported by the high rate of internet coverage, where over 66.2% of the world is now having regular Internet usage (Internet World Stats, 2021).

Especially with the lockdowns and remote working required by the COVID-19 restrictions, there is a growing assumption that the whole world is moving fast in digitalization than in previous years (Frost & Duan, 2020; Gavrila & De Lucas Ancillo, 2021). The effects of COVID-19 changed the very nature that organizations operate, with an immediate transition to the digitalization of processes in sectors like education, finance, and health (Alshubiri et al., 2022; Lokuge & Duan, 2021; Niranga et al., 2022b). Similarly, interactions with employees, decision-making, and corporate communications shifted more to online platforms (Anthony Jnr & Abbas, 2021; Niranga & Sedera, 2022). One of the pandemic's fastest-growing apps was Zoom in remote working, with meeting participants rising by 2900% to 350 million by December 2020 (Molla, 2020).

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