The United States remains the dominant information economy, but Asia-Pacific has passed Europe in the pace of developing information infrastructures, according to a recent survey conducted by market research firm International Data Corp.
Asia-Pacific countries led the world in the growth rate of information infrastructure in 1997, with a 10 percent increase from the year before, while the US grew 7.9 percent, Europe grew 7 percent and Latin America grew 5.5 percent, according to the 1999 IDC/World Times Information Society Index released yesterday.
"In Europe, the infrastructure is old," said Matt Toolan, program manager of IDC's Global Research Services. "In Asia, they are not locked in stone. They can use new technology trends instead of trying to retrofit older technology."
The third annual installment of the Information Society Index tracks data from 55 countries that collectively account for 99 percent of IT expenditure. Using 1997 data and some estimates from 1998, the report surveyed how information systems, the Internet, computers and social organisation all were employed to foster the information revolution.
The overall score in the survey showed IT growth increased by more than 8 percent worldwide from 1996 to 1997. Internet infrastructure growth, spurred by e-commerce, increased 103 percent. Social freedoms and programs that lead to infrastructure development actually decreased in some countries, leading to an overall drop of 1 percent. Computer and information systems grew at 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
The survey put countries in the following rank for 1997 for their development in the categories of information systems, the Internet, computers and social organisation: US; Sweden; Finland; Singapore; Norway; Denmark; and the Netherlands; Australia; Japan; and Canada. Continental European countries ranked lower. The UK ranked 14th, Germany - 5th, France -19th and Italy - 23rd.
Older European countries are handicapped in their ability to move fast to change, Toolan said. "Europe is still very regulated and monopolistic toward their telecommunications carriers. Deregulation fosters a more competitive environment and makes more people want to participate."
Countries in the Asia-Pacific area, particularly Singapore, are investing more heavily than have those in continental Europe, said Wilford Welch, director of global research for World Times.