Sweden Edges the United States out of Top Position in the Information Revolution, 2000 IDC/World Times Information Society Index Reveals

FRAMINGHAM, MASS., FEBRUARY 14, 2000 — Proving that a small initiative such as an Employee Purchase Scheme (EPS) can have a significant impact upon the Information Society in a short time period, Sweden has surpassed the United States to become the world's dominant information economy, according to the 2000 IDC/World Times Information Society Index (ISI). Sweden's program — which was a corporate initiative as opposed to a government program – demonstrates the ability of corporations to influence the development of the Information Society.

"Although the United States has slipped to number two, its consistent investments in IT will enable it to return to the top of its game," said Matt Toolan, director of IDC's Global IT Market and Strategies research. "However, Sweden's movement is proof that even the strongest Information Society must remain innovative both in terms of developing IT and integrating it into their societies."

The United States still tops the computer infrastructure segment, but its weakness relative to the Nordic nations in the social infrastructure has played a role in Sweden's movement to the number-one spot overall, the study reveals. IDC believes it is critical to have a well-rounded strategy for developing an Information Society. "The penetration of PCs does not guarantee the strength of a digital economy," Toolan said. "Instead, all infrastructures — computer, Internet, information, and social — must be a strong interwoven body that works together to support the Information Society. Sweden understands this need for a balanced approach."

The fourth annual installment of the ISI tracks data from 55 countries that collectively account for 97% of the global GDP and 99% of IT expenditure. The research includes 1998 actual data and 1999 estimates for 23 different variables spanning four infrastructure categories: information, Internet, computer, and social. A forthcoming report in the ISI will include forecasts through 2003. The data sets are drawn from highly reliable sources including IDC, UNESCO, ITU, World Bank, and Freedom House.

The cumulative global ISI score increased 7.17% over last year. Therefore, there has been a healthy increase in the ability to absorb information and utilize technology. The study indicates that Middle Europe, North America, Japan, and the Four Tigers led this charge, exhibiting significant momentum and increasing their scores more than 10%. "Although all societies are making advances, they are doing so at very different rates and significant gaps are emerging," said Wilford Welch, director, Global Research, World Times.

Additional findings from the study show Taiwan moving three spots to arrive at number 18 from 21 last year. Taiwan made the most significant gains in the Internet and computer infrastructures. Coupled with its already strong social infrastructure, which is on par with that of the United States, Taiwan has catapulted itself forward. Interestingly enough, its strength in social infrastructure comes from the high level of newspaper readership. With the rapid pace of Internet adoption, there may well be a shift within Taiwan in the coming years to reflect the adoption of new digital mediums of information absorption.

Individual countries, which are ranked and placed into four distinct categories, vary widely in scoring. In the 2000 ISI, 13 countries placed in the top category, which was occupied by only 7 in the previous year. Hong Kong, Belgium, Austria, and New Zealand led the pack of 16 that comprise the second grouping.

"In terms of infrastructure developments, the Internet infrastructure remains the main driver of Information Society growth," said Stephanie Hutchison, a senior analyst with IDC's Global Research Organization. "With usage having increased substantially over the past few years and continuing to do so in the foreseeable future, it is not surprising that the second phase of Internet development, ecommerce, is bursting forth." According to the ISI, ecommerce has begun to drive growth in this infrastructure with strong support from the user segments. In 1999, the Internet infrastructure score grew more than 40%.

The 2000 IDC/World Times Information Society Index: Measuring the Global Impact of Information Technology and Internet Adoption continues to build on the standard by which all nations are measured according to their ability to access and absorb information and information technology. The ISI has emerged as a critical global strategic planning tool. Just as GDP measures economic wealth, the ISI measures information capacity and wealth around the world.

The study shows how effective policy translates into progress and how IT suppliers can find new opportunities for growth. For policy makers, effective legislation promoting IT use and telecom deregulation can make an immediate difference in the information wealth of countries. For suppliers of IT products and solutions, identifying the most lucrative and fastest-growing nations is a far easier process with the 2000 ISI. This report is updated annually for government planners, global IT and telecommunications corporations, and global asset management firms seeking to assess market opportunities around the globe.

For additional information on this study, please call Lisa Bloom or Beth Freedman at 508-872-8200.

About IDC

IDC delivers dependable, relevant, and high-impact data and insight on information technology to help organizations make sound business and technology decisions. IDC forecasts worldwide IT markets and technology trends and analyzes IT products and vendors, using a combination of rigorous primary research and in-depth competitive analysis. IDC is committed to providing global research with local content through more than 500 analysts in 42 countries worldwide. IDC's customers comprise the world's leading IT suppliers, IT organizations, and the financial community. Additional information can be found at http://www.idc.com.

IDC is a division of International Data Group, the world's leading IT media, research, and exposition company.

About World Times

World Times Inc. specializes in presenting fresh perspectives on critical global issues through its publication, The WorldPaper, through research such as the ISI and through international conferences. The WorldPaper is distributed as a world affairs section in 24 countries in 5 language editions with a circulation of 2 million. World Times is headquartered in Boston, Mass.

World Times, Inc. provides additional company information at its Web site (http://www.worldpaper.com).

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