Are Australian CEOs digital dullards?


Australian chief executives have ‘significantly lower’ digital IQs than their global counterparts, rated 30 points below chief executives in other Asia-Pacific countries, according to a recent PwC survey.

The ‘2017 Digital IQ Survey’ received data from more than 2,200 senior business and IT executives across the globe, exposing a significant gulf in digital literacy between Australian CXOs and their global peers.

‘Digital IQ’ is defined by PwC as a measure of executives’ and leaders’ capacity to deliver and sustain value from their digital investments.

Australian chief executives’ ‘digital IQ’ was measured at 40 per cent, a notable 30 points below their Asia-Pacific peers rated at 70 per cent.  Against their global counterparts, Australian CEOs fared little better, sitting more than 20 points below the worldwide average of 61 per cent.

Curiously, the survey notes, despite the ignominious results, Australian CEOs are almost always responsible for setting their organisation’s digital strategy.

The problem, according to John Riccio, PwC Australia’s Head of Digital Services, ultimately rests at the hands (and heads) of Australian companies, who “have their priorities wrong when it comes to digital business transformation.”

“Digital is getting the right level of sponsorship from the top in Australia,” he said. “It’s essential we listen to our best digital minds or we will continue to fall further behind.”

For Riccio, Australian organisations have taken a tunnel-visioned approach to their technology assets, not only “failing to seriously incorporate digital into the fabric of our companies,” but also under-utilising their most digital-literate executives.

“The problem is twofold: Australian organisations are not empowering our most digitally savvy leaders to light the way, and we’re too focused on the technology rather than thinking about digital as a ‘whole of business’ transformation,” Riccio said.

“The average digital IQ of Australian businesses and their executives is significantly lower than their peers around the world, so it’s essential we listen to our best digital minds or we will continue to fall further behind,” he said.

Australian CEOs were not the only ones to fall short of their global peers. Local CIOs – despite their reputation as the most technologically savvy members of the C-suite – also trailed their global counterparts by a noteworthy margin, rating 20 per cent lower than their peers across both the Asia-Pacific and the rest of the globe.