Turkey has distinguished itself as a digital innovator, with an emerging track record in network readiness, talent competitiveness and innovation policy. Becoming a world-class digital innovator will demand that Turkey leverages its existing strengths, and focuses its energies on improving its performance in specific policy areas.
Turkey’s transformation from a developing nation to a regionally competitive upper-middle income economy represents a remarkable trajectory of growth. Particularly in the 2000s and early 2010s, Turkey’s economy grew and modernized at a record pace. In recent years especially, Turkey has committed to becoming future-ready and a competitive digital innovator. Among upper-middle income economies surveyed by the Network Readiness Index (NRI), Turkey outperforms in most sub-pillars relating to aspects of People, Governance, Technology and Impact.
Portulans data and analysis suggests Turkey ranks well in the NRI Governance pillar, where it ranks 48th globally (in the NRI as a whole, Turkey ranks 57th). Turkey performs highly in measurements relating to Governments, Trust and Access to ICTs, suggesting a future-ready, digitally-enabled governance strategy. According to Turkey’s Minister of Industry and Technology, Mustafa Varank, the ‘2023 Industry and Technology Strategy’ are supported by a firm governance groundwork, such as a strong IP legal framework, ICT regulation (8th place) and e-commerce legislation (1st place). It is clear that Turkey’s Ministry of Industry and Technology has prioritized a well-governed innovation ecosystem, with tangible results.
In addition, the Global Innovation Index (GII) suggests high levels of Market Sophistication (28th place), with strong performance in the Intensity of Local Market Competition (6th place) and Trade, Competition and Market Scale (7th place). This performance is undoubtedly the result of Turkey’s emerging innovation and investment culture, with measures intended to improve investor confidence and showcase entrepreneurial ideas and individuals, like Turkey’s ‘Innovation Week’ (attracting 450,000 visitors between 2012 and 2019, and over 500,000 viewers for the 2020 event) and a wide array of innovation accelerators and incubators, designed to fuel Turkey’s start-up sector. Turkey also has multi-billion dollar policy commitments to improving national infrastructure: a move that improves competition, trade and market sophistication at the national and local levels.
Turkey’s talent ecosystem also shows much promise. The Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) praises Turkey’s performance in Retaining Talent (ranked 62nd worldwide, compared to Turkey’s 78th ranking overall) and GK Skills, which includes high-level skills and talent impact (63rd place). Turkey is a distinguished global leader in Tertiary Enrolment (3rd place) and Education Expenditure (22nd place). McKinsey analysis suggests that, leveraging this strong track record, current talent trends suggests that automation and digitization may potentially produce 3.1 million jobs by 2030, particularly as it is supported by an increasingly “well-educated dynamic workforce”, over 150,000 R&D staff nationally, in addition to 85 ‘Teknoparks’ designed to promote national innovation and prevent brain drain.
However, briefly comparing year-on-year index data suggests no recent major improvement in Turkey’s performance as a digital innovator. In addition, Turkey lags behind regional averages in Network Readiness in Europe. To bolster a competitive, future-ready trajectory of digital innovation, Turkey needs to strengthen its commitments to inclusiveness and high- and emerging technology.
As NRI, GII and GTCI data all indicate, more could be done to close the gender digital divide. The NRI demonstrates Turkey is ranked 81st worldwide for its Gender Gap in Internet Use, despite ranking highly for Government Online Services (22nd place) and E-Participation (23rd place). By prioritizing inclusiveness in its innovation agenda, Turkey could tackle its long-standing gender inequality issues, and empower women and underserved communities with the connectivity they require in order to meaningfully contribute to innovation. This would boost its overall Network Readiness, as currently Turkey’s overall performance is dragged down by its sub-par performance in the Quality of Life (103rd place) sub-pillar and in the UN SDGs Gender Equality (102nd place) indicator.
Another area of improvement which demonstrates clear future promise is high-tech exports, an area in which Turkey ranks 102nd in the NRI. In recent years, Turkey has tackled this deficiency head-on, by increasing high-tech exports to USD$3.5 billion in 2017, and then over USD$5 billion in 2019. Boosting its performance in Investment in Emerging Technology (103rd place) and ICT Skills (111th place) have recently been prioritized by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and there are signs that this commitment will lead to positive gains for network readiness and innovation outputs alike.
As NRI, GII and GTCI data demonstrate clearly, Turkey is a country filled with opportunity for strong network readiness, world-class talent and sustainable, successful innovation. Turkish industry and policy-makers should harness its existing, strong track record in certain areas to tackle identified areas of improvement and bolster regional competitiveness.
This blog is part of the ‘NRI Regional Spotlight’ series: a series in which Portulans staff use the Network Readiness Index data and findings to produce targeted analysis and commentary (in addition to insights from the Global Innovation Index and the Global Talent Competitiveness Index). Interested in a deep-dive into your country’s tech competitiveness, innovation readiness and global talent? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.