Canada ranks twelfth in the world in terms of its overall network preparedness according to a report from Harvard University's Center for International Development released Monday at the World Economic Forum in New York.
The Global Information Technology Report 2001-2002: Readiness for the Networked World, examines the shrinking importance of information and communications technologies (ICT) amidst recent world tragedies and the sagging ICT economy. It also included a Network Readiness Index (NRI), which ranks 75 countries according to how they are taking advantage of new technologies.
The United States topped the list, followed in the top five by Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Financial resources aren't always the prime determinant of a country's IT readiness, the report found: Bangladesh, India and Bolivia are leaders relative to their economic development levels, while France and Japan rank lower than would be expected, given their comparative wealth.
The NRI is aimed as a tool for global policy-makers, according to the report's authors, and incorporates an array of influencing factors and collected data. Economic conditions, national policies, domestic infrastructure and educational initiatives are among the elements contributing to the rankings, according to the report.
Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) president David Strangway said ranking comes as a shock. "We may have been number 12 a couple of years ago, but there's an awful lot of stuff happening now (and) it's happening on the ground at the level where people are really doing things."
He said government projects such as the CA Net 4, announced in the last federal budget and the movement into new areas like grid computing and bioinformatics shows that there is a national commitment to the IT industry. Last week Ottawa-based CFI announced $700 million in funding for new technology projects for universities, colleges, hospitals and not-for-profit.
"We have required every facility that we fund to take use of the optical fibre backbone and link it up. Here's an area where Canada is back in the game in a very big way," said Strangway. He added that the individual institutions are asked by the CFI to outline where their future research plans are and what they need to get back into a competitive position on a global scale.
However, not everyone is convinced that Ottawa has made the necessary financial commitment to the country's ICT infrastructure.
"Canada does want to be at the top of this list (but) there wasn't enough funding in the last budget to develop networks," said Faye West, direction of information systems for the Alberta Research Council in Edmonton.
The study can be found at Harvard University's Web site at http://www.harvard.edu