Web-savvy Danes rule Internet roost

Web-savvy Danes rule Internet roost

The United States and Switzerland boosted their rankings in an annual survey of the world's Web-savviest nations by aggressively rolling out broadband and wireless Internet connections.

The United States, which had slipped to sixth place in late 2003, recovered to rank No. 2 in late 2004, according to an annual study published on Wednesday by U.S. computer company International Business Machines and the intelligence unit of The Economist. Switzerland climbed to fourth place from No. 10.

Denmark remained No. 1 in taking advantage of the Internet, both connecting citizens securely over broadband and wireless networks as well as using its near ubiquitous hook-ups for Internet banking and government services such as tax returns.

Denmark has also established a government Website that pulls together ministries and other organisations, in which citizens and companies can access public services.

This year's study put more emphasis on security: laws and technology that protect users against viruses and fraud, a factor that hurt South Korea's ranking.

South Korea fell to No 18. from No. 14, despite leading the world in broadband access with 75 percent of households having access to a fast Web connection.

"Security is a problem affecting South Korea. It doesn't have a secure (Internet) environment," said Peter Korsten, European director at IBM's Institute for Business Value.

Another weakness holding back South Korea is its weak entrepreneurial culture, unlike that of Nordic European countries such as Sweden, Finland and Denmark, which all made it into the top six.

Norway, as an exception to the Scandinavian edge, slipped to ninth place from No. 4 as the study found that the country was lagging in innovation, measured by the number of technology patents per citizen.

The United Kingdom also fell three places due to weak position in education, which was looked at more thoroughly in this year's survey.

"It's performance in some e-readiness criteria now appears in a less positive light than previously. This includes the educational level of the population, which is lower than most other western European countries," the survey said, adding British children left school earlier than their European peers.

Fourteen countries scored more than eight out of a possible 10, against eight countries last year, which indicates they risk losing leading positions even if their performance remains stable.

"Today's top performers may well lag behind in one or two years if they don't embrace the latest Web innovations." Korsten said.

"It's a tough, continuing battle out there," he added.

Countries such as Singapore (11th place), Austria (14) and Spain (23) fell several places, while Australia (10), New Zealand (16), Israel (20) and Japan (21) and most eastern European states climbed several spots.

Mexico (36) gained several positions after major government investment in Internet community centres and a rising number of Web cafes, reminiscent of initiatives in Sweden five years ago.

Of the 65 countries surveyed, Azerbaijan remained at the bottom of the list with just 2.72 points, up from 2.43, only slightly worse than Pakistan with 2.93 points.

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