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Tim Berners-Lee's Web Index hands top spot to Sweden

The US and the UK took second and third place respectively in a new index ranking the state of the web around the world, based on usage, content and infrastructure.
Written by Jon Yeomans, Contributor

Sweden has topped a new Web Index designed to illustrate the state of the web's development around the world, with the US and UK taking second and third place respectively.

The Web Index is the brainchild of web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Foundation, and it measures and ranks three broad states. These include: web readiness, such as infrastructure; web use, and the quantity of web content available; and web impact, including social-media interactions and business use.

Web Index 2012
The Web Index 2012 places Sweden at the top. Image credit: WWW Foundation

The first edition of the Index, which will be published annually, looks at 61 countries. The study builds on primary research, in the form of questionnaires, and secondary sources, such as the ITU and the CIA Factbook.

In the report, published on Tuesday, Sweden scored highly for 'impact of the web', though it did less well in having a high quantity of content available to its population. The US, in second place, did well in terms of web content, but ranked lower for social, economic and political impact, and in infrastructure.

The UK was praised for having faster average broadband speeds than the US and "a strong performance in web content". "The scale and quality of available content has been boosted by various public-sector initiatives," the report noted, possibly reflecting the UK government's push to put more services online.

The World Wide Web Foundation hopes its findings will be used to shape web policy around the world. "We hope that the Index will help deepen and broaden our understanding of the impact of this most powerful tool on humanity," the report (PDF) said.

"By shining a light on the barriers to the web for everyone, the Index is a powerful tool that will empower individuals, government and organisations to improve their societies," Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the BBC.

Reach of the web

The report noted that the web now has around 3.4 billion users worldwide, but that around 60 percent of the world's population still has no access to the internet.

In explaining the three sub-indices used to calculate the Index, the authors pointed out that a country with relatively poor internet infrastructure could feel a disproportionately high impact (or "value") from the web.

Web Index sub-indices
The Web Index has three sub-indices. Image credit: WWW Foundation

"[This is] exemplified most clearly by the recent events in North Africa, where only around 40 percent of the population uses the web, but the impact of the web as a tool for political change is arguably greater than in many countries where more than 70 percent of people use the web," the report said.

The non-profit World Wide Web Foundation received funding of $1m (£630,000) from Google to produce the initial version of the Web Index. Further donations are being sought.

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