The latest global information technology report from the World Economic Forum is being passed around, which ranks Canada 8th among the 138 countries studied. That's down from 7th the previous year. The U.S. was fifth in both reports.
Before you shake your heads in embarassment, know that I took the time Thursday to call Geneva — where the report's authors are based — and found out that the 2010-2011 report is largely based on 2009 statistics the WEF gathers from a number of sources.
So two of the indicators where Canada scored relatively badly, the number of wireless subscribers per 100 persons, and the price of telecommunications, are out of date. Last year the entrance of four new wireless carriers — Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Public Mobile and Quebec cableco Videotron — has pushed competition up and prices down. According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Commission, the number of wireless subscribers after three quarters of 2010 (their latest figures) was just over 24 million. By comparison there were 22.8 million wireless subscribers at the end of 2009.
To be fair, the number of wireless subscribers probably went up in the WEF's top 20 ranked countries as well. And by my reading of the CWTC figures, the overall increase in Canadian subscribers for the first three quarters was about at the same pace as it has been for the past tw years. So the relative rankings might still be valid.
There were other reasons why Canada's ranking slipped a little, I was told. For example, the WEF no longer grabs figures on the number of patents issued from the U.S. Patent Office. Instead it uses the World Intellectual Property Office, whose figures may be fairer to other countries around the world but not to us.
“The top 10 is extremely good,” Thierry Geiger, associate director of the forum's centre for global competitiveness. “A drop of one place is really, really small.”
The forum does these comparisions to encourage nations to increase their attention on information and telecommunications technologies. Economies like Singapore, Estonia, South Korea and Malaysia do well in part because their governments make sure through digital strategies and policies their peoples have access to the latest in ITC. But, he added, it also has to be part of a broader growth strategy.
“Canada, like all rich countries, needs to move towards a knowledge-based economy, so it needs to create the right incentives for business to come up with new ideas, for universities to train the right people. So at the end of the day I think a digital strategy is important in the context of a growth strategy.”
Download the report and let me know what you think.