IDC on Monday announced that Nordic countries once again dominated its annual index of top IT nations, while the US has dropped four places and the UK has disappeared from the top ten.
The 2003 IDC/World Times Information Society Index (ISI) has analysed 55 countries every year on their ability to implement and use IT to advance technological, economic and social goals. Factors considered include PC and Internet usage, e-commerce, telecommunications infrastructure, broadband and wireless subscribers, education levels, press freedom and government corruption.
Last year, the UK ranked No. 7, outstripped only by three of the Nordic countries, the US, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The country's drop in status will not be welcomed by the government, which plays up the UK's household Internet penetration, the use of e-commerce and the rapid spread of broadband as evidence that Britain is in high-tech's major leagues.
However, an Oftel report earlier this year found that the growth in Internet take-up by residential customers had slowed during 2002, and shows no sign of increasing. According to Oftel's figures, the ratio of UK homes with Internet access is currently stable at just over four in ten households -- compared with 69 percent for top-ranked Sweden.
Sweden topped the chart for the fourth year in a row, with the Nordic countries taking up four of the five top spots, as they have done for most of the past six years. However, the US -- which has also ranked in the top five for several years -- fell four places to No. 8, while the UK, Australia and Taiwan exited the top ten. In the mean time, New Zealand, Austria and Canada rose into the top ten after failing to make an appearance there last year.
About 69 percent of Sweden's population is online, with 15 percent of them on broadband connections, while 80 percent subscribe to mobile phone services, and 25 percent of Web users access the Internet from mobile devices.
"In the middle of the Great Age of Uncertainty -- war, terrorism, economic recession and disease -- nations around the world must continue on their path toward the development of the Information Society," IDC said of its index results, in a statement. "Information technology plays a central role in the development of living conditions, political reforms, peace and economic prosperity."
Tech investment rising
However, it's not all bad news for the UK tech sector. In terms of investments in technology companies, the UK is leading Europe, according to Money for Growth 2002, an annual report on technology investments in Europe from PricewaterhouseCoopers, released on Monday. According to the report, UK companies received 22 percent of all the technology venture capital money in Europe. While this amounted to only half the amount the UK saw in 2001, it leaves Britain in first place. For private equity investment, the UK gave its first position to France, which saw a 30 percent increase to 2.1bn euros. Britain claimed second place with 1.1bn euros followed by Sweden with 800m euros. Across all industry sectors, Investment as a whole in Europe fell last year by almost 30 percent to 5.3bn euros.