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How Can the US Improve Its ICT Standing?

Corruption and Bandwidth Seem Like Two, Possibly Related, Issue

How can the United States improve its technology standing in the world? For that matter, how can any country do this?

These are among the questions we've undertaken with our ongoing research at The Tau Institute, which I founded earlier this year with the sponsorship of Cloud Computing Journal and Computerworld Philippines. We have a small staff in our joint headquarters offices in Illinois and Manila.

We integrate several technology, economic, and societal measures into two algorithms that are designed to measure the relative, "pound-for-pound" impact of the ICT environments of 102 nations. The first algorithm integrates all factors; the second focuses on the technology factors alone, to determine which countries have the most remaining potential.

The factors - all publicly available - include the World Bank's per capita income figures (nominal and adjusted for local cost-of-living), the Gini coefficient (which measures income disparity), Transparency International's Perception of Corruption Index, and the United Nations Human Development Index. We also integrate Internet access and datacenter data from the International Telecommunications Union.

We normalize the factors, then integrate in a fashion that weighs their impact uniquely and highlights the star performers in all regions and at all income levels. I've provided a list of the top performers before.

But returning to the question at the top of this piece, how can nations improve?

Two of the most important things they can do is reduce their corruption and increase their citizens' access to broadband connections. These two things are not necessarily strongly related, but we believe they are connected.

The Worldwide Web is the apotheosis of Schumpeter's doctrine of creative destruction - the introverted Tim Berners-Lee does not seem like an anarchic man, but his invention has already destroyed journalism as we knew it and played a role in bringing down governments as well. The Web thus has a power that terrifies old-guard businesspeople and all government leaders.

On the one hand, broadband only increases - or facilitates - citizens' ability to find, create, and dissemminate information and opinion in an incredibly inexpensive fashion. On the other, a highly corrupt leadership will be more effective in curbing the freedoms enabled by the Web, including access to it.

Our rankings do not weigh the type of government, nor do they have any baked-in prejudice toward any particular political point of view. The world's top performers include the very open societies of Finland and New Zealand, less open South Korea, and Communist Vietnam.

The United States drags along at 34th, trailing Canada in its own region, and many Western, Eastern, and Northern European counterparts. The BRICs nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) all trail counterparts in their regions and income tiers.

Increasing income disparity in the United States also hurts its rankings, particularly in comparison to Canada. We see this as linked to corruption, although strong programs to bring wider-spread access to all corners of the country may improve things independently of the societal factors.

We'll be looking at Australia's NBN broadband effort in coming years to see what difference it makes, for example.

Have a question on how our data can help you or your country? Contact us via Twitter and we'd love to start a discussion.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Studies, (@TauDir), with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is also a writer & editor for SYS-CON Media. He writes for Cloud Computing Journal & Computerworld Philippines. He is Conference Chair of WebRTC Summit and Things Expo. He has a BA from Knox College, Certificate in Tech Writing from UC-Berkeley, and MBA studies at CSU-East Bay. He serves on the board of the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies, and has served as Director, U.S. Coast Guard Aux Int'l Affairs.