“Without optimal use of ICT and maximum support from the tech industry, there
will not be a sustainable world.” — Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff is founder and executive director of the Tau
Institute — a US-based
not-for-profit organization that conducts global research on national IT
development, ecosystems and socioeconomic environments. One focal point of
Strukhoff’s work is the Tau Index,
which ranks 144 countries based on their information and communications
technology (ICT) infrastructures and ecosystems,
including how well these nations are utilizing ICT to create more sustainable
We spoke with Strukhoff to learn more about the Tau Index, the role ICT can play
in driving positive change, and why people are so important to ensuring
technology fulfils its potential.
What drove you to set up the Tau Institute?
Roger Strukhoff: I founded the Institute in 2011 with a partner in the Philippines when I was
living over there for a few years. I had seen a lot of dynamism and innovation
in a country that’s usually associated with poverty and corruption. Ever since
that time, I’ve been seeking ways to express this energy and innovation with
data, so that developing nations such as the Philippines can compete on a more
level playing field with richer, more developed nations.
Why is ICT so important when it comes to sustainability?
RS: Without optimal use of ICT and maximum support from the tech industry, there
will not be a sustainable world. ICT drives innovation — but also the design of
massive systems, monitoring and improving them; and providing clear, powerful
ways for us as human beings to understand what we’re doing.
What are some of the world’s biggest ICT challenges in building a better future?
RS: The educational and societal challenges are larger than the technical ones. The
United States, still the largest and most dominant nation in the world, can’t
even get half of its citizens to agree to fight a deadly
That said, obviously we need to get to carbon zero and beyond. I’ve developed an
Index that shows the cost of doing this as far as electricity generation; but
there’s also an enormous challenge in transportation, in food
in continuing to clean up water and fight disease, and in the materials we use
to design and construct our
Basically, name any issue and you’ve named an ICT challenge regarding
Where might the solutions to those challenges come from?
RS: Again, only people can lead. Our machines and software won’t do it for us. We
must get as many national governments as possible reading from the same page;
and encourage NGOs and, especially, large businesses to get behind
sustainability and stay there, and get the citizens of the world to understand
What key insights have come out of the work you are doing with the Tau Index?
RS: By studying 144 nations and continuing to seek reliable data for the other 40 or
so nations of the world, I’ve learned that people are the same everywhere — same
goals, aspirations, brilliance, ignorance, jealousies, obtuseness,
incandescence; and above all, same humanity. We must look at people and their
nations at face value and address each of them as if they are our brothers,
sisters, parents, children — which indeed they are.
What separates those nations who are leading on ICT and sustainability from the rest of the pack?
RS: There seems to be a certain willingness to think beyond their front door. Most
of these countries are small, but not all of them. Many are wealthy, many are
not. But all of the leading nations have leaders who see the world as a whole
and develop policies that are not only good for their constituents, but also for
the world. Current members of my Top 20 include the nation of Georgia,
Denmark, the Netherlands, Rwanda, Portugal, Vietnam,
Uruguay, Costa Rica and South Korea. But a few highly developed
nations have snuck in — including Portugal, Switzerland, and even the
UK. The United States is near the bottom — facing a colossal challenge and
not nearly enough political will to address it.
Where will the ICT stars of the future will come from? Are there any emerging contenders to look out for?
RS: There is a group of nations that I call ‘edge nations’ that are really no longer
developing nations, but not quite up to the living standards of the developed
world. This group includes the former Soviet Baltic states; a few in
Eastern Europe, such as Bulgaria; a few in Latin America such as
Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile; and a few in Asia, such as Malaysia.
There are also a few places in Africa — such as Rwanda, Nigeria,
Tanzania, and others in the Great Lakes Region that are showing renewed
development. In West Africa, it’s great to see companies like Google
investing in Ghana. As far as ICT stars, they can come from anywhere if they
can get funding and have strong management and access to customers.