Outsider countries can implement various catch-up and advance development strategies to overcome lagging behind the leaders of the global economic system. However, in the digital economy, there is a shift in priorities and a change in the mechanisms for ensuring long-term advance in the direction of increasing social and economic stability.
The aim of the study is to study differentiation of countries by level of socio-economic development in the global digital economy, the disclosure of conditions and factors to overcome the knowledge gap and rationale implementation of the strategy lead.
Research result. The article analyzes the traditionally used strategies for overcoming the gap in the level of socio-economic development (catch - up, intermediate and advanced development). It is proved that as a result of the transition to the digital stage of development, ideas about leaders and outsiders, about mechanisms and strategies for overcoming the gap are transformed, and previous strategies for catching up and advancing development become less effective in the global economy. The specifics, limitations and contradictions of the digital economy are revealed (reduction of factor productivity against the background of increased investment in the development of digital technologies, slowdown in economic growth, restriction of conditions for the formation of an inclusive digital society by a decrease in the human development index, aggravation of the environmental situation). It is proved that the new paradigm of the strategy of advancing in the digital economy is built in accordance with the principles of sustainable development and is aimed at overcoming the productivity paradox, unlocking human potential, reducing social inequalities and ensuring environmental well-being.