The UK has dropped sharply in the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual 'e-readiness' league table, as the recession harmed many countries' ability to use ICT for social and economic development.
The E-readiness rankings 2009: The usage imperative report, published on Wednesday, is the ninth in an annual series analysing and ranking countries according to the standard of their ICT infrastructure and the ability of their citizens, businesses and governments to use ICT for their good.
This e-readiness depends largely on a stable business environment, and the downturn has disrupted this stability, the EIU said. As a result, all 70 countries included in the study have seen their business environment scores drop in 2009. In addition, all but nine countries had lower overall e-readiness scores.
"The results of this year's research underscore the fact that digital development does not take place in a vacuum," EIU editorial director Robin Bew said in a statement.
The report's ranking is based on six categories of criteria, including the state of the country's technological infrastructure, the country's business environment, the social and cultural environment and consumer and business adoption.
The business environments of the US and the UK have been particularly hard-hit by the downturn, the report's authors noted. Consequently, the UK dropped from eighth place last year to 13th in the current study, while the US dropped from the top spot to fifth place.
Meanwhile, Denmark reclaimed the top spot from the US, while Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway all found slots in the top 10, due to high usage levels of ICT in those countries.
In the longer term, ICT in general may benefit from the stimulus packages being introduced in countries such as the US, as these packages usually include direct or indirect spending on technology and communications projects, the EIU said.
In its Digital Britain report, published on Tuesday, the UK government pledged to spend up to £175m a year to build out next-generation broadband to almost all the UK. It will also dedicate £30m to pushing through ICT innovation, invest £23m over three years to help small businesses exploit advanced ICT and introduce three new research hubs with funding of £12m for each.
However, the report warned against the threat of protectionist measures being considered by some governments, and noted that these measures are sometimes attached to stimulus packages.
The company also noted that mounting concern over the ecological impact of digital devices and networks could lead to further policy constraints for ICT.