U.S. Lagging Europe in Global Infotech League: Report

By Robert Evans, Reuters  |  Posted 03-28-2007
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States is falling behind European countries and Singapore in exploiting information technology, according to a report issued on Wednesday.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum, publisher of the report, said the United States had dropped from first to seventh place in a global league—or "Networked Readiness Index"—that it has been issuing annually since 2001.

The new champion, the Forum said, is Denmark, which had an excellent regulatory environment and clear government leadership and vision in application of computer technology (ICT).

By contrast, the U.S. decline was mainly due to relative deterioration of the political and regulatory environment.

After Denmark, third in the 2006 ratings, the latest league table showed Sweden in second place, up from eighth last year, Singapore third, Finland fourth, Switzerland fifth and Netherlands sixth.

The report is produced by the Forum in cooperation with the INSEAD international business school at Versailles, near Paris, and its conclusions are based on assessments by experts at the two institutions.

The U.S. decline in the ICT rating followed a similar drop last year in another annual survey from the Forum, the World Competitiveness Report, which showed the United States down from top in 2005 to sixth in 2006.

DEFICITS AND DEBT

The Competitiveness Report, a more general study looking at how countries shape up against each other in efficiency right across the economy, blamed that decline on worries about record deficits and growing foreign debt.

The application and use of ICT is one of the factors assessed in determining the competitiveness rankings.

The 122 countries surveyed were assessed on the general business, regulatory and infrastructure environment for ICT, the readiness of individuals, businesses and governments to use and benefit from it, and their actual use of the latest technology.

In Asia, Hong Kong emerged in 12th position in the league, with Taiwan 13th and Japan 14th. India, at 44th, and China, at 59th, had both dropped back, largely due to poor infrastructure, according to the report.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Chile was leading—at 31st in the global league—followed by Barbados at 40th. But most countries in the region were improving because of increased government emphasis on ICT.

In Africa, almost all countries were dropping in the ratings, including South Africa which was rated at 47th against 37th last year. But a bright spot was Ethiopia, now spending nearly one tenth of its GDP annually on ITC.