Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Broadband & Social Justice.
For a nation that considers itself the world leader in all things, the United States doesn’t look so good when it comes to making the best use of communications technology.
A recent study by the World Economic Forum lists our nation fifth, behind Sweden, Singapore, Finland, and Switzerland.
The study measured what the World Economic Forum calls networked readiness, “the capacity of countries to fully benefit from new technologies in their competitiveness strategies and their citizens’ daily lives.”
“A crucial lever for long-term growth”
The study is keen on how Sweden and other Scandinavian nations are integrating communications technology into their societies and their economies. “Although some Nordic countries lost some ground with respect to last year,” the study found, “the others are still among the most successful countries in the world at fully integrating new technologies in their competitiveness strategies and using them as a crucial lever for long-term growth.”
Europe in general is doing well, and Asia “is home to some of the best performers in the world” in the use of new technologies, the study found. Africa’s performance is “disappointing,” and Latin America “as a whole continues to trail behind international best practices.”
So fifth in the world is not bad. China, after all, is 36th. But the World Economic Forum looks ahead, and it sees the potential for rapid changes. Broadband, the study argues, is the key.
Over the next 10 years, the forum finds, Internet connectivity will shift the economic balance of power. Economic powerhouses of the 20th century — that’s us — could give way to emerging economies that take better use of the economic strength to be found in a fully networked society.
“Emerging economies will become predominant”
“The next decade will see the global Internet transformed from an arena dominated by advanced countries, their businesses, and citizens to one where emerging economies will become predominant,” the study says. “As more citizens in these economies go online and connectivity levels approach those of advanced markets, the global shares of Internet activity and transactions will increasingly shift toward the former.”
Nothing is certain, of course, but the emergence of high-speed connectivity introduces a new, and disruptive, factor into market economies.
“This inflection point,” the study says, “presents an opportunity for economies — and cities — all over the globe to take decisive steps to gain the competitive advantage that can be derived from widespread use of broadband networks.”
Where does that leave the United States? Like any other nation, it leaves us with a choice. We can fully network our people, as One Economy and others advocate, and take broadband to every door. Or we can continue to tolerate a digital divide of alarming proportions.
The World Economic Forum’s study argues strongly for a fully networked future.
Ava L. Parker of Jacksonville, Florida, is the president of Linking Solutions Inc., a business-development and community-outreach firm, and a partner in the law firm of Lawrence & Parker, PA., and the voice of The AvaView, a blog on digital action and consumer protection.