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Summary:

The U.S. dropped in the rankings of countries that are well equipped to use their information and communications technology infrastructure as an economic advantage, while Sweden tops that list, according to a survey issued today by the The World Economic Forum.

The U.S. has dropped in the rankings of countries that are well equipped to use their information and communications technology infrastructure as an economic advantage, while Sweden now tops that list, according to a survey issued today by the The World Economic Forum. For 2009-2010, the U.S. ranked fifth after coming in third during the 2008-2009 period. The study, dubbed the Network Readiness Index, measures several aspects of a society’s ability to use and innovate with information and network technology.

In the nine years since the study began, the issues have changed from providing access to technology to how governments, businesses and consumers can use technology in innovative ways to benefit their societies. While the spread of connectivity — especially in the third and developing world — is fantastic, the emphasis on taking connectivity further is near and dear to our hearts at GigaOM.

“It is not good enough for organizations to use technology to reduce costs—they have to be able to use ICT to enhance innovation in all aspects of what they do. Governments have to move beyond providing online services (traditional e-government boundaries) to provide more effective governance to their citizens. While individual citizens will increase their use of the Internet, ICT has to be deployed to create cohesive and harmonious societies.”

I talked a bit about U.S. municipalities going beyond government services in my Google fiber story today, and Mathew’s post on Crowdcast hit on ways businesses can use technology to improve their metrics and processes. But the U.S. is still unable to regain the No. 1 standing it last had in 2005. Although the U.S. has good infrastructure and education, the relatively low penetration of mobile phones (we rank 72 with an 86 percent subscription rate) high corporate tax rates, poor legislation and burdensome regulations bring the U.S. down.

Meanwhile, the top countries tend to fare better in overall network quality and individual and government use. Despite its high taxes, Sweden compensates by having a strong regulatory framework to protect intellectual property and laws that promote competition in information and communication technology. It also has a robust physical communications network.

By Stacey Higginbotham
  1. Internet was invented by the US Military so the technological innovation is from the US, but reading the article it clearly shows how other nations have been able to provded value added service by leveraging IT. I have not read the study but does this study take into account the innovations made by the private sector in the US especially in social media, has the study looked at the impact and effiencies brought about by Facebook and Twitter?

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  2. Studying the data underling this report, it would seem things will only get worse in the US. One area in which the US lags (ranked 53rd out of 133 countries) is “burden of government regulation.” I don’t think anyone feels that the US is headed toward less regulation; more seems to be the order of the day. Another is “total tax rate” (ranked 85th). Here also, higher taxes are more likely than lower taxes. And here’s an interesting one: “judicial independence” (ranked 26th). Recent Congressional action would seem to indicate less independence is in store.

    Maybe the time will come when we’ll look back fondly on the halcyon days when the US ranked #5.

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  3. Amazing to see the likes of Japan and South Korea missing out in the top 10.

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  4. @Clement : Amazing to see the likes of Japan and South Korea missing out in the top 10.

    Talk to some people who live in Japan, you won’t be amazed anymore.

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  5. Dick Selwood Friday, March 26, 2010

    The Internet was not invented by the US military. The development of the internet was funded by ARPA, which in turn had some military funding. The actual development was carried out in US universities and research companies, and also at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, which invented packet switching.

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  6. There are too many factors here that don’t really equate to a clear picture. In some respects, I’m surprised that the US remains in the top-10 for Network Readiness. In other respects, with the exception of Canada, it is completely impressive that the US retains a strong position, considering these are all dinky, wealthy countries with nominal-to-no military/expense… their ability to deploy and maintain infrastructure – physically, legally, socially – is many multiples of US agility.

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  7. [...] may remember Sweden from reports last week listing it as the country most ready to prosper from its information and communications [...]

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  8. @Bob you are correct, not everyone will use the max bandwidth. However the cost is not a factor as long as Google is initially footing the bill. They are apparently looking to purchase dark fiber and they are looking for engineers. It is my thought that they are looking for a challenge, which is why we nominated Charleston, WV – we have both urban and rural in close proximity and the mountains, rivers and so forth would present an excellent challenge to them.

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