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Something to worry about?
Posted by: mcq on Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm not sure it is, at least to this point:
The US has lost its position as the world's primary engine of technology innovation, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The US is now ranked seventh in the body's league table measuring the impact of technology on the development of nations.

A deterioration of the political and regulatory environment in the US prompted the fall, the report said.

The top spot went for the first time to Denmark, followed by Sweden.
The "deterioration of the political and regulatory environment" prompted the fall? And this is about the impact of technology on the development of nations? Hmmm ...
Countries were judged on the integration of technology in business, the infrastructure available, government policy favourable for fostering a culture of innovation and progress and leadership in promoting the usage of the latest information technology tools.
Ah ... of course. Government policy. Heh ...
Despite losing its top position, the US still maintained a strong focus on innovation, driven by one of the world's best tertiary education systems and its high degree of co-operation with industry, the report said.

The country's efficient market environment, conducive to the availability of venture capital, and the sophistication of financial markets, was also given recognition.
But government regulation, apparently, wasn't up to snuff? So who took over the top spot?
Denmark is now regarded as the world leader in technological advancement, with its Nordic neighbours Sweden, Finland and Norway claiming second, fourth and 10th place respectively.

"Denmark, in particular, has benefited from the very effective government e-leadership, reflected in early liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, a first-rate regulatory environment and large availability of e-government services," said Irene Mia, senior economist at World Economic Forum.
Maybe it is just me, but "government e-leadership" doesn't strike a particular bell with me when we talk about what we want to have an effect on the "impact of technology on the development of nations". Nor would I necessarily consider the "large availability of e-government services" to be a primary indicator of that. Frankly, those things listed as so good in the US in the paragraph above are much more indicative of whether or not technology has a favorable impact on the nation.

Given their propensity to compare the relative ease of what a country of 5 million (the Atlanta MSA is larger than that) such as Denmark with 5 whole regions can do to that of a nation of 300,000,000 and 50 state governments, well, just doesn't strike me as a particularly valid comparison to begin with.

So I'm inclined to question the veracity of the study and to wonder, given it's insistence on a deterioration in the "political and regulatory" environment in the US as a primary reason for its drop, how much of the study is based on a hidden ideological bias.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Yes, an ideological bias that rewards "early liberalisation of the telecom sector". Bunch of closet socialists, apparently.

Seriously, if you don’t like anyone to have good things to say about the Scandanavian countries, fine, but don’t pretend it’s rooted in a healthy skepticism and penetrating analysis.

Written By: Mithras
Interesting that the top countries are all headquarters of celluar phone makers. I guess they really didn’t factor in that the cell phone business is in a restructuring phase with multiple mergers underway as margins of cell phones are dropping continuously.

They may well be the innovators, but are they getting a return on the innovation ?
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
So many sour grapes masquerading as skepticism of the judgment of the World Economic Forum and Insead, "the Paris-based business school." If the US has lost the crown, then it’s lost the crown and if Denmark and Sweden and other small nordic countries are superior then the US should bow down. It is the World Economic Forum, you know, and Insead is Paris-based. And this Networked Readiness Index of theirs is no less than the "sixth of its kind" so I think, you know, that they know what they are doing. Pointing out political deficiencies and substandard degrees of governmental regulation has nothing to do with any kind of ideological bias. Honestly!
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Oh seriously...

The Top 10 Technology Leading Countries...a list that does NOT include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China or India!

They really meant to say Top 10 "Technocratic" Countries, I think, as the criteria are heavily biased towards Euro-bureaucracy, and not towards what anyone - who was not a bureaucrat - would consider technology.
Written By: Marlowe
URL: http://
I’ll just also note that I didn’t hear McQ’s notes of skepticism in 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005, when the U.S. was ranked in the top 10. The US was #1 for 2002, #2 in 2003, #1 again in 2004, and #5 in 2005.
Written By: Mithras
Wait a minute. Weren’t a bunch of news editors recently on trial for publishing Mohammed cartoons in Denmark? Great, so after the thought police throw me in jail, I get to make one text message. Sounds like a paradise. Nah, I think I’ll stay in the backward US with my Atari 2600 and my Walkman cassette.....
Written By: Come on, Please
URL: http://

Maybe because he didn’t have any idea about these rankings until the news story came out yesterday? Just a possiblity, or maybe he’s omniscient like you claim.
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
I’ll just also note that I didn’t hear McQ’s notes of skepticism in 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005, ...
Well gee Mithras, it may be because I didn’t even know about it in those years and only noticed it this year and questioned it.

Problem with that?
Written By: McQ
I think we need to:
1) First, pass a number of Federal Laws concerning Tech Innovation
2) For, the moment, ban private IT development
3) Form a Blue Ribbon Task OFrce of Senators, Representatives and CIO’s of Federal Agencies to discuss what needs to be done to reverse this dangerous trend! (In an Earth-friendly, gender-normed, racially balanced way)
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Seriously, if you don’t like anyone to have good things to say about the Scandanavian countries, fine, but don’t pretend it’s rooted in a healthy skepticism and penetrating analysis.
Nice strawman . . .

And I didn’t think Scandanavians were so touchy.
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Mithras - well, perhaps the news should have touted we were top ten as efficiently as they are touting our fall from top-10.

Then maybe the doom and gloomers could have lamented our not being #1 instead of or fall out of the top-10 now and McQ could have noticed the moaning and groaning and implications that George Bush has knocked us down into a techno state just slightly higher than the Elbonians.

I know personally, ’government’ and ’technical innovation’ are two things I always think of in a virtually synonymous fashion.
You too I guess.

I also inherently trust all studies that originate from orgnizations in France, especially as they pertain to the United States, and even more especially in the last 8 years.
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Liberals like Mithras need to take note of Mr. Esmay’s comments about Americaphobia at

Dean’s World

“Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy.”
”If you take the former position [on Iraq] you have no business calling yourself a liberal or a progressive or a humanist. If you take the latter position, then maybe you have to swallow the bitter pill that someone named George Bush, whom you don’t like and maybe think is incompetent, was the instigator of something that damn well needs to be supported.
But you can’t have it both ways. ...It’s high time someone told you people this.
Comment not on point? Oh, I think so.
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
Mobile cellular telephone subscribers per 100 inhabitants: Denmark 96.1 - US 61.0

It’s the Cell Phone Gap.

Mr. President, we must not allow a Cell Phone gap!
Written By: Jay Evans
URL: http://
Err, we are lagging on broadband too...shrug

All Iknow is I want my damn fiber optic! Wah!
Written By: Khepri
URL: http://
I didn’t mean to imply that McQ should have picked up on the story years ago. Sorry if that sounded snide.
I did, though, mean to point out that the U.S. has done well in this ranking in the past, so any attempt to besmirch its reputation on account of a Scandanavian country being #1 falls rather flat.
Written By: Mithras
Okay, I think it’s an attempt to besmirch our reputation because they hate our president. I don’t blame the average Scandanavian for that.
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I’m shocked—shocked!—that the World Economic Forum in France (the country whose existing economic policies of the past twenty straight years will actually translate into 50% of all French workers at or below the American poverty line within one more generation!) has discovered that the U.S. is no longer the pre-eminent economic engine that it once was in technology. By all means then, everyone in France go imitate what the Danes and the Swedes and the Norwegians are doing with their economic policies, and ignore what the Chinese, Indians, and Americans are accomplishing.

If Scandanavian economic policies result in more economic growth than ours do, we’ll adopt their policies. If demonstrably they do not, we won’t. We call such an American standard, ’pragmatism.’ To the French, there is no such concept on any bandwidth, including any built in Scandanavia.
Written By: a Duoist
I think there may be some truth to the article’s thesis.

Our state-mediated education system is propagating in-numeracy in the general population. The first manifestation of this institutional shortfall could be a measurable lag in technological advancement.

Whether you blame it on the soft-sciences and Humanities curricula, or on a lack of teacher-accountability in statist meritocracies, the effect is a dissappointing dearth of hard, "left-brain" logic in our nation’s political discourse.

That said, I think Europe’s cheerleaders are looking for any reason to pump their pom-poms these days.

And it’s no wonder. With France’s urban Muslim youths continuing their arsonist rampages in the Paris ’burbs, and the building threat of Jihadi nuclear blackmail on Southern Europe’s door-step, any Belge, Brit or Kraut with the where-withal is investing in, buying up and moving to North America.

To any thinking person with private property and a family to protect, the EU’s "velvet-glove" approach to Iran in the wake of it’s abduction of 15 Royal mariners is not encouraging either.

Written By: steveaz
URL: http://
In Europe and indeed most of the world you can gamble on the internet, as opposed to America where you have to get in a car and drive to Las Vegas. Since a major chunk of the internets business is gambling may be this is part of the adverse regulation harming American competitiveness.
Written By: unaha-closp
And the gaming law has the knock on effect of making it illegal for American financial services companies to provide funds to internet gaming sites - bad for Paypal.
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://
E-government could refer to the ability to interface with government on-line (instead of in-line at the DMV)

Taiwan is a major leader in this field. I wonder if the Nordics are too, and that’s why they are getting higher ranks in "e-leadership."
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I’ve been to both Norway and Sweden. The idea that they are more significant drivers of technological change than the US is simply silly.

Both places have their good points. I was particularly impressed with Norway.

But, based on extensive discussions with software developers in both countries, their adoption of leading edge software development technologies lags about 18 months behind typical middle-American companies, and at least two years behind companies on the American coasts.

They have done better in leading edge telecom, but remember that the land area they have to cover is substantially less than here, so they got better economies of scale when going mobile.

And these regulation-junkies have it almost completely backwards. The US high tech industry has done well because the government has mostly stayed out of the way. The computer and software industry have been one of the least regulated industries of the last 100 years, and has driven a significant portion of our economic growth in the last fifty.

Nope, if their ranking has any component that favors government intervention in tech advance, we don’t have anything to worry about.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
The US high tech industry has done well because the government has mostly stayed out of the way.
This is the salient point, the greatest impediment to progress is Governmental intrusion. I would expect that may be one of the reasons we lost points. Big Brother is looking at technology with greedy eyes, grasping hands and a desire to regulate.
Written By: James E. Fish

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