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Surprise: US lags in technology adoption, report says

The United States may be the locus of information technology innovation, but its benefits are being realized elsewhere.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributor on

The United States, home base and site of the founding of the most pervasive and global-spanning tech companies in the world -- including  IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and the Internet itself -- only comes in fifth in a new study that ranks the technology savviness of nations. The report, published by the World Economic Forum, ranks Sweden and Singapore at the top of its list, based on readiness and adoption of technologies by governments, people, and businesses.

The New York Times provides a summary of clues of why America isn't top of the list, including the fact that the country is "uneven on many measures that affect economic competitiveness" -- including ranking 76th in the rate of mobile phone subscriptions, 48th in low-cost access to business phone lines and 24th in percentage of households with a personal computer. The US also ranked 52nd in math and science education.

Of course, the US technology position is just one aspect of the issues and opportunities discussed in the report, covering the impact of technology on the world's people and markets. Some snippets from the report:

On the future of the global Internet: "As more citizens in [developing] economies go online and connectivity levels approach those of advanced markets, the global shares of Internet activity and transactions will increasingly shift toward the former. In addition, with the improvement in the speed and quality of broadband and with Web 2.0 technologies and applications, economic and social dynamics across the world will change dramatically, with massive implications in terms of productivity gains and new opportunities for individuals." - Soumitra Dutta, INSEAD, Irene Mia, World Economic Forum

On US broadband development: "The government can influence the development of broadband: (1) ensuring robust competition; (2) efficiently allocating assets that the public sector controls or influences; (3) encouraging the deployment, adoption, and use of broadband in areas where the market alone is not enough; and (4) providing firms and consumers with incentives to extract value from the use of broadband, particularly in sectors that further national purposes, such as education, healthcare, and so forth." - Jonathan B. Baker and Paul De Sa, Federal Communications Commission

On the limits of technology: "Information and communications technology in isolation will offer little value.... In order to energize value-creating employees, we need to create a culture of transparency that engenders their trust. We need to rethink the traditional organizational hierarchy, making managers as accountable to employees as those employees are to their bosses. In short, we need to activate and enable the catalysts for creating and delivering innovative technology-based solutions—our people." - Vineet Nayar, HCL Technologies

The World Economic Forum report has a lot of different perspectives and predictions, but the common theme is that information technology is now the single driving force paving the way for a period of robust growth across many countries and regions that languished for decades in the economic backwaters. Information technology has become the great global equalizer.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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