U.S. is No.1 in technology competitiveness

Posted in Other | 15-Dec-03 | Author: Eric Pfanner| Source: International Herald Tribune

PARIS - As world leaders and technology experts gather in Geneva to discuss the future of the Internet and its accessibility to poor countries, a report set for publication Tuesday underscores the leading position of the United States in the development and use of information technology.

The survey, to be published by the World Economic Forum, says the United States ranks first globally in its application of advanced information and communication technologies, a crucial factor in overall economic competitiveness that has helped power the U.S. economic recovery. The United States, which was second in the previous survey, replaced Finland at the top. Finland moved to No.3 in the newest survey, with Singapore in second place.

The forum, which published its 2002-2003 survey last February, is releasing the 2003-2004 version now so that it coincides with the World Summit on the Information Society, which opens Wednesday in Geneva. A perceived U.S. dominance in the governance of the Internet is expected to be one of the most contentious issues on the agenda.

Fiona Paua, an economist at the forum, said that despite a sluggish global economy, which has curbed business spending on technology after the boom of the late 1990's, there were some signs of progress on bridging the "digital divide" that separates the technology access of wealthy and poor countries.

The forum's competitiveness rankings are based on a variety of empirical data on everything from the number of telephone lines and mobile phones in use to market penetration of television sets and cable TV to the number of personal computers and Internet users. The United States does well in many of these areas, though mobile-phone use, for instance, remains higher in many European and Asian countries.

But the rankings also weigh the opinions of business leaders who were surveyed on factors like their perception of a country's investment climate and the political and regulatory environment for technology. That is one reason some countries with a well-established technology infrastructure may not be near the top of the overall rankings; South Korea, for instance, the world leader in broadband use, is only 20th in the forum's rankings, which are aimed at determining an economy's overall "networked readiness."

Other countries in the top 10 are Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Iceland.