IMD figures show New Zealand's business agility ranking was 16 in 2015, 14 in 2016, and 26 in 2017.
Business agility includes companies' use of big data. For instance, NZ ranks number 34 in use of big data and analytics.
At the same time, other countries are catching up fast on digital technology.
For countries that are stacked above New Zealand in the ranking on digital competitiveness, digital goes beyond having an online presence, says Cheewei Kwan, partner at Kerridge & Partners.
"In fast moving economies, digital is truly integrated into the business," says Kwan, in the panel discussion following the presentation by Bris and Cabolis. "It is part and parcel of business strategy going forward. I don't think we are there yet."
He believes it comes back to the idea that "we [New Zealanders] are still comfortable in this part of the world, with 3 per cent growth."
But compared to fast moving economies in Asia and other parts of the world, over time, we are going to be further and further behind in the curve, he says. "We have to do something quick."
In the case of big data, companies can extract value out of the massive data available using machine learning, says another panelist, David Rae, former head of investment analytics at NZ Super Fund, and now board member of Longroad Energy Holdings.
Rae says he used to sit on the board of an organisation that had masses of data on its customers. At one point, the IT department said they were running out or server space and would like to delete the customer records.
"I said, over my dead body. [That data] is so valuable."
How can you provide better service to customers, how do you build a relationship with customers and give much more targeted offerings to individuals? These will come from the use of big data, he says.
Bris says the indicators that stood out among the most improved countries are related to government and business efficiency as well as productivity.
"These countries have maintained a business-friendly environment that encourages openness and productivity," he says. "If you look at China, its improvement of seven places to 18th can be traced to its dedication to international trade. This continues to drive the economy and the improvement in government and business efficiency."
The bottom of the table, meanwhile, is largely occupied by countries experiencing political and economic upheaval.
"You would expect to see countries such as Ukraine (60), Brazil (61) and Venezuela (63) here because you read about their political issues in the news. These issues are at the root of poor government efficiency which diminishes their place in the rankings," says Bris.
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