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Survey Finds Technology Gap Closing Between Rich, Poor Countries - 2003-12-09

A new survey of 102 countries ranks the United States as the most technologically innovative country in the world. The report, produced by the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and a graduate business school outside Paris, INSEAD, also says the technological gap between the rich and not so rich countries is closing.

The report says the the United States is top ranked - in part because of the way U.S. businesses and government agencies use ICT, or information and communications technology. The United States also scores particularly well in the quality of its scientific research institutions and the number of new patents.

This is the third year the report has been published. One of its authors is Soumitra Dutta, professor of business and technology at INSEAD. He said this year's study has good news. "There seems to be some evidence from our studies that the gap between the more developed nations in ICT usage and spread, and usage and access in the less developed nations is decreasing. Now, we still have to understand this phenomenon better, but at least it shows that some of the efforts which we have launched in less developed economies and also in more developed economies is bearing fruit today," he said.

The report says the use of information and commnunications technology remains one of the most powerful engines for economic growth and the best hope for accelerating development.

A key part of the report is the so called network readiness index, which measures how prepared each economy is to use communications technology.

"We insisted in this report this year on the fact that when you look at network readiness, you are not looking at an abstract type of indicator," said Bruno Lanvin, program manager at the World Bank. "You are looking at the tools that will enable you to generate wealth creation, competitiveness, success in the areas of trade and others and creation of employment. This so-called dichotomy, either you invest in technology or you invest in health or education, is not the right way to look at things."

The report credits India's success in information technology for its relatively high ranking among developing countries. It is 45th in the index.

Among the 25 African countries, South Africa is the leader, placing 37th in the index. The next three highest-ranked African countries are Tunisia at 40th, Mauritius at 43rd and Botswana at 55th.