The United States remains the dominant information economy, but Asia-Pacific has passed Europe in the pace of developing information infrastructures, according to a recent survey conducted by market research firm IDC.
Asia-Pacific countries led the world in the growth rate of information infrastructure in 1997, with a 10 per cent increase from the year before, while the US grew 7.9 per cent, Europe 7 per cent and Latin America 5.5 percent, according to the 1999 IDC/World Times Information Society Index released this week.
"In Europe, the infrastructure is old," said Matt Toolan, program manager of IDC's Global Research Services.
"In Asia, they are not locked in stone. They can use new technology trends instead of trying to retrofit older technology."
The third annual installment of the Information Society Index tracks data from 55 countries that collectively account for 99 per cent of IT expenditure. Using 1997 data and some estimates from 1998, the report surveyed how information systems, the Internet, computers and social organisation were all employed to foster the information revolution.
The overall score in the survey showed IT growth increased by more than 8 per cent worldwide from 1996 to 1997. Internet infrastructure growth, spurred by e-commerce, increased 103 per cent. Social freedoms and programs that lead to infrastructure development actually decreased in some countries, leading to an overall drop of 1 per cent. Computer and information systems grew at 10 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.
The survey put countries in the following order for 1997 for their development in the categories of information systems, the Internet, computers and social organisation: US, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, and Canada. Continental European nations ranked lower. The UK ranked 14th, Germany was 15th, France 19th and Italy was 23rd.
Older European countries are handicapped in their ability to move fast to change, Toolan said. "Europe is still very regulated and monopolistic toward their telecommunications carriers. Deregulation fosters a more competitive environment and makes more people want to participate."
Countries in the Asia-Pacific area, particularly Singapore, are investing more heavily than those in continental Europe, said Wilford Welch, director of global research for World Times.