Sweden Rocks and the U.S. Drops in Tech Productivity Study

The U.S. has dropped in the rankings of countries that are well equipped to use their information and communications technology infrastructure as an economic advantage, while Sweden now tops that list, according to a survey issued today by the The World Economic Forum. For 2009-2010, the U.S. ranked fifth after coming in third during the 2008-2009 period. The study, dubbed the Network Readiness Index, measures several aspects of a society’s ability to use and innovate with information and network technology.

In the nine years since the study began, the issues have changed from providing access to technology to how governments, businesses and consumers can use technology in innovative ways to benefit their societies. While the spread of connectivity — especially in the third and developing world — is fantastic, the emphasis on taking connectivity further is near and dear to our hearts at GigaOM.

“It is not good enough for organizations to use technology to reduce costs—they have to be able to use ICT to enhance innovation in all aspects of what they do. Governments have to move beyond providing online services (traditional e-government boundaries) to provide more effective governance to their citizens. While individual citizens will increase their use of the Internet, ICT has to be deployed to create cohesive and harmonious societies.”

I talked a bit about U.S. municipalities going beyond government services in my Google fiber story today, and Mathew’s post on Crowdcast hit on ways businesses can use technology to improve their metrics and processes. But the U.S. is still unable to regain the No. 1 standing it last had in 2005. Although the U.S. has good infrastructure and education, the relatively low penetration of mobile phones (we rank 72 with an 86 percent subscription rate) high corporate tax rates, poor legislation and burdensome regulations bring the U.S. down.

Meanwhile, the top countries tend to fare better in overall network quality and individual and government use. Despite its high taxes, Sweden compensates by having a strong regulatory framework to protect intellectual property and laws that promote competition in information and communication technology. It also has a robust physical communications network.