Study: US tops index of IT network readiness

The U.S. has the most highly developed information and communication technology (ICT) network in the world and the greatest potential to tap into its technological capacity, according to a report produced by Harvard University's Center for International Development and released Monday here at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

"The Global Information Technology Report 2001-2002: Readiness for the Networked World" (GITR) is intended as a comprehensive study of IT use and issues in 75 countries. The report features a Networked Readiness Index (NRI), a measure of the state of national ICT networks and the preparedness of countries to exploit their IT resources. The U.S. topped the NRI, followed in the top five by Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The NRI's top 25 nations include 14 countries in Western Europe, seven in Asia and Oceania (led by Singapore, at number 8, with Korea at number 20 and Japan at number 21), two in North America (the U.S. and Canada, number 12), one in the Middle East (Israel, number 22) and one in Central/Eastern Europe (Estonia, number 23).

The index's bottom 25 includes 10 nations in Latin America, seven in Asia, four in Central/Eastern Europe, three in Africa and one in the Middle East. Ecuador, Honduras, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Nigeria, respectively, fill the NRI's lowest five slots.

Financial resources aren't always the prime determinant of a country's IT readiness: Bangladesh, India and Bolivia are leaders relative to their economic development levels, while France and Japan rank lower than would be expected, given their comparative wealth, the report states.

The NRI is aimed as a tool for global policy-makers, according to the report's authors, and incorporates an array of influencing factors and collected data. Economic conditions, national policies, domestic infrastructure and educational initiatives are among the elements contributing to the rankings, according to the report.

The GITR includes profiles analyzing IT trends within each of the 75 countries studied, along with analytical articles by IT experts from academia and from within the industry. Certain chapters from the report, including a section on the NRI, are available at http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cr/gitrr_030202.html. A final version of the report is scheduled to be released by Oxford University Press in March.

The WEF maintains a Global Digital Divide Initative (GDDI) Task Force, which aims to enhance entrepreneurship and education technology and boost technological readiness in developing nations. The task force reported at the WEF meeting on its recent efforts, which include pilot projects in Brazil and South Africa partnering GDDI member companies with local, early-stage entrepreneurial ventures. Reports on the task force's efforts in several nations are available on the WEF's Web site.

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