UK slips in world IT stakes

The latest report by the Global Economic Forum has revealed that the UK is falling behind in the effective use of information...

The latest report by the Global Economic Forum has revealed that the UK is falling behind in the effective use of information technology.

The Global Information Technology Report puts the UK at a rather embarrassing 15th out of 102 countries in its “network readiness index”, compared with seventh the year before and 10th the year before that.

The US topped the list, followed by Singapore (third last year) and Scandinavian countries making up the rest of the top five. The UK was also beaten by Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Iceland, Germany, Japan, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Bottom of the table are Chad, Ethopia, Haiti, Angola and Honduras, in that order.

The UK comes 10th in terms of “readiness” but 14th in “environment” and, crucially, 21st in “usage”. The UK is second in Europe (behind Germany) in terms of the number of internet users, television sets, PCs and telephones, but seem unable to translate this into real benefits.

There is no shortage of money either. The UK is second in the world when it comes to availability of venture capital. It is fifth in scientific research (although 37th in terms of the availability of scientists and engineers).

The UK the fastest in the world when it comes to getting a new telephone line put in, but 22nd and 26th when it comes to the ease and the cost of it. The UK has the least restrictions to foreign companies on the planet, and eighth in terms of competition in the ISP market. But the UK retains an incredibly poor 67th when it comes to the affordability of internet access.

Much fuss has been made this year about how many more UK citizens have gone online, but there are other countries continuing to move faster - and not just developing countries. The government comes a respectable fifth in terms of online presence yet comes 42nd in terms of procurement.

The report is upbeat in its assessment of the market this year and next. Its introduction complains of the slowdown in ICT spending since the dotcom bubble burst, but delights that “2003 has seen a reversal of sentiments in the financial markets” and started on a “new and positive cycle”.

Kieren McCarthy writes for

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