US regains top ranking for technology

The US has regained top position in the 2005 information technology rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum after slipping to fifth place in 2004.

Releasing its latest Global Information Technology Report, Geneva-based WEF said the US lead reflected its excellent physical infrastructure, a supportive market environment and high levels of business and government usage of the latest technologies.

Singapore, first in 2004, came second and Denmark third. Four Nordic countries – the others being Iceland, Finland and Sweden – are in the top 10 alongside Canada, Taiwan and Switzerland.

The UK, in 10th place, is the top-ranked of the European Union’s large economies, followed some way behind by Germany (17), France (22) and Italy (42).

WEF, which for 2005 ranked 115 economies worldwide, said information and communications technologies were clearly emerging as one of the key drivers of economic growth and competitiveness. WEF produces a separate league table on global competitiveness each year.

The “networked readiness index” rates each economy for its broad ICT environment, such as regulation and infrastructure, the readiness of individuals, businesses and governments to use ICT, such as education quality and spending on research and development, and use of ICT in practice.

Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of WEF’s global competitiveness network, said: “The US has been for many years an ICT powerhouse, and its sustained ability to harness these technologies so effectively…provides a standard of measurement for other countries wishing to rapidly improve the living standards of their citizens.”

All ranking exercises of this type have an element of arbitrariness, depending on how the indexes are compiled. However, the leaders tend to be roughly the same whatever the criteria, with the US, UK, the Nordics, Switzerland, Singapore and others in east Asia all featuring regularly in the top 10.

Further down the rankings the idiosyncrasies of the index become more apparent. India is ranked at 40, much the same as in 2004, despite its booming ICT sector. China, which is set to overtake the US in the number of internet users, has fallen nine places to 50.

Both are ranked well below countries such as Malaysia (24), United Arab Emirates (28), Thailand (34) and South Africa (37).

Among those moving up the league table in 2005 were Taiwan, which jumped to 7 from 15 in 2004, South Korea (up 10 places to 14), and several new EU members, including Poland and the Czech and Slovak Republics.

Chile, ranked 29, leads in Latin America, with bigger economies such as Brazil (52) and Mexico (55) well down the list.

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