Singapore ousts US as world's top exploiter of new IT

The United States has been toppled as the world's most successful economy in exploiting new ICT by a host of European nations and new global champion in IT - Singapore.

The latest technology report from the World Economic Forum shows that while the US has slipped three places in IT dominance, Britain has climbed from fifteenth to twelfth place in terms of its "network readiness."

This means that the UK now heads the large European economies in terms of ICT but loses out to improving tech capability in Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Sweden in second, third, fourth and sixth places respectively.

The study ranks more than 100 countries and tests nations on an array of factors including ICT infrastructure, regulatory regimes, levels of ICT literacy and use of ICT by government and businesses.

In Britain, lower levels of regulation on business helped boost its ICT ranking, combined with increasing research and development.

Yet the biggest gains came from Singapore - a country that has exploited its growing ICT to improve living standards thanks to the government and industry's "superior performance" in encouraging technology.

The WEF said that such a level of tech investment, with inexpensive broadband and a good quality of education enabled Singapore to creep up and eventually overtake the US.

"Singapore is an excellent example of a country that has been able to make in a relatively short period of time enormous progress in putting ICT at the service of improved living standards," said Augusto Lopez-Carlos, Director of WEF's Global Competitiveness Programme.

But according to the findings, the States has retained its global lead in terms of its ICT business readiness, and its scientific research and business schools "have no peer in the world."

The WEF added that the decline of ICT in the States is less to do with its worsening performance and more to do with technological advances of its competitors.

By contrast, Russia underperformed in ICT and remains unchanged from its position from last year, coming 62nd in terms of its network readiness.

Latin America also failed to make significant headway, primarily due to ICT being a low regional priority, as well a shaky legal framework that makes development of the IT sector troublesome.

Other problems for the region like poor penetration rates of broadband and a pervasive 'brain drain' failed however to stop Chile making progress, which emerged as the highest-ranking South American nation.

Elsewhere, China and Japan both improved their capability of exploiting new ICT, climbing from 51st and 45th last year, to 39th and 41st place respectively.

The report singled out Japan for its notable network readiness improvements, which like Hong Kong, boosted the country into the top ten for the first time.

Japan still remains second to the US for its numbers of patents registered, which is typically a good measure of technical innovation.

According to the report, this is being championed by the Nordic countries - Sweden, Finland and Denmark in particular, consistently beating larger European economies in terms of US patents registered per million of the population.

The five Nordic states, four of which are in the top ten, also benefit from "an enviable regulatory and institutional environment that has nurtured the growth of the ICT sector."

Responding to the study, John Chambers, President of Cisco Systems, said: "While ICT usage is a measure of the present, ICT readiness is perhaps a measure of the future.

"Proactive policies and investments by all levels of government such as encouraging broadband network infrastructures, the education and literacy of citizens and ongoing skills training are all components of the readiness measurement and play an important role in building the foundations of a country's productivity."

Among other global regions, Israel and Taiwan are improving their ICT readiness and usage, with both countries falling second to the US & Japan for numbers of patents registered.

South Africa remained strong on its continent, complimented by its more technically advanced neigbour, Tunisia.

Likewise, United Arab Emirates and Bahran both made their ICT presence felt in the index for the first time, due mainly to a strong government strategy promoting ICT usage.

Meanwhile levels of ICT readiness in Estonia easily offset levels achieved from European rivals France and Germany, which featured 20th and 14th respectively.

However, nowhere in the world has made as much progress with ICT than Singapore, commended for its cheap connection charges, top maths and science education and use of foreign technology.

Report co-author, Mr Lopex-Carols, said: "Singapore's experience highlights the increasingly central role played by technology as an engine of growth and competitiveness, even beyond the borders of the rich industrial countries."

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