In something of a surprise, the United States was surpassed this year by six other countries in a prominent report on the competitiveness of the information and communications status of national economies. Released today by the World Economics Forum, the "The Global Information Technology Report" ranked Denmark as the world's most advanced nation in network-ready capabilities. The Danes were followed by Sweden, Singapore, Finland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The U.S., which had been rated first last year, fell to the seventh spot this year, trailed by Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Norway among the top ten.

The 2007 Networked Readiness Index (NRI) evaluated 122 nations for their strengths and weaknesses in the area of information and communications technology (ICT). The NRI measured the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments. It examined three key aspects of each nation's progress: their ICT environment; the readiness of their key stakeholders; and the usage of ICT among these stakeholders. It also sought to establish 'a broad international framework mapping out the enabling factors of such capacity', according to its creators.

"Leveraging ICT is increasingly becoming an essential instrument for countries and national stakeholders to ensure continued prosperity for their people," Irene Mia, senior economist of the Global Competitiveness Network at the World Economic Forum and co-editor of the report, said in a prepared statement.

"In recent years, the world has witnessed the power of ICT in revolutionizing the business and economic landscape and empowering individuals, while fostering social networks and virtual communities," added Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mia said that Denmark had climbed to the top of the network-readiness list due to "early liberalization of the telecommunications sector, a first-rate regulatory framework, and large availability of e-government services." The small Scandinavian country rose two positions from last year's report on the basis of a clear government vision and early focus on the penetration and usage of ICT in business and public administration. She noted that the report's authors found this to be generally true among all the Nordic nations, which placed five entrants in the top ten.

"Nordic countries have shown how an early focus on education, innovation, and promotion of ICT penetration and diffusion is a winning strategy for increased networked readiness and competitiveness," Mia stated.

The 361-page report, which can be ordered online, found that the U.S., for all its vaunted technological prowess, deserved a demotion because of the relative deterioration of its political and regulatory environment. It noted, however, that the nation that pioneered and perfected much of the technology the world now uses 'maintains its primacy in innovation, driven by one of the world's best tertiary education systems and its high degree of cooperation' with industry.

Its authors added that the 'extremely efficient market environment' found in the U.S. is 'very conducive' to the development of its ICT sector, particularly in the availability of venture capital for start-ups and financial market sophistication.

In an executive summary, the report's editors wrote: "There is growing evidence that ICT is driving innovation by allowing creative thinking and responsive problem solving to provide the promise of never-before-seen opportunities for all."

Now, there is growing evidence that the rest of the world is catching up to the nation largely responsible for launching the information and communications revolution. It really should come as no surprise.


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