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Global Information Technology report 2013

The World Economic Forum recently released its Global Information Technology Report 2013, and in this post I would like to have a quick look at it.

It is a long document, so I will just try to take a few highlights to give an idea of the findings.

The report has a Network Readiness Index that aims to measure how prepared countries are to adopt and make the most of new technology. Factors such as investment in broadband and other telecommunications fields obviously enter, but so does the quality of the education system and regulatory powers.

Finland leads the world in embracing technology, followed by Singapore and Sweden. The UK is in 7th place, the USA in 9th and my present home Italy is well down at number 50.

World Economic Forum

The Nordic countries and the so-called Asian Tigers – Singapore, Taiwan (China), South Korea and Hong Kong SAR – dominate this year’s index thanks to their business-friendly approach, highly skilled populations and investments in infrastructure, among other strengths. Finland, which arguably has one of the best educational systems in the world, stands out as a digital innovation hub.

Southern Europe shows a massive lag in fact with the North, and this is a major problem.

The positioning is not only important for so called ‘techies’, but really important for the economy as a whole, and here in Italy (and in Southern Europe on the whole) we are in serious need of economic improvement.

Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa also suffer from a serious lag despite infrastructure improvements, an expansion of coverage and a push into e-government. Weaknesses in the political and regulatory environment, the existence of large segments of the population with a low skills base and poor development of the innovation system are all factors hindering Latin America’s technological potential. In sub-Saharan Africa, costly access to technology, a low skills base and unfavourable business conditions are among the chief obstacles.

The report demonstrates that economic growth and technological readiness are tightly linked.

Top 10 countries for Network Rediness 2013/2012
A look at the top 10

An analysis by Booz & Company has found that ICT could help lift millions out of poverty.

Digitization has boosted world economic output by US$ 193 billion over the past two years and created 6 million jobs during that period, according to the study. Using a Digitization Index that ranks countries on a scale from zero to 100, Booz & Company found that an increase of 10% in a country’s digitization score fuels a 0.75% growth in its GDP per capita. That same 10% boost in digitization leads to a 1.02% drop in a state’s unemployment rate.

If emerging markets could double the Digitization Index score for their poorest citizens over the next 10 years, the result would be a global US$ 4.4 trillion gain in nominal GDP, according to the study. It would generate an extra US$ 930 billion in the cumulative household income for the poorest, and 64 million new jobs for today’s socially and economically most marginal groups. This would enable 580 million people to climb above the poverty line.

So investment is this area is extremely important, but in many places falling profits due to economic downturn (as is the case in Southern Europe and to some extent the USA) mean that less money is available, and this effects future growth scenarios.

Interestingly 3G growth is more important than general mobile telecommunication growth, we really do live in an information society that is based on Internet connectivity.

Medical care is also another area where benefits are net and easy to measure.

Southern Europe is in a particularly precarious position due to lack of investment capability. Rwanda on the other hand is following many other African countries in investing in expanding its fibre optic network and hopes to become a banking and finance hub, moving to being a knowledge based economy and away from agrarian in the next 7 years.

Colombia, Uruguay and Panama have become champions of e-government and connectivity. In Colombia, Internet connections have tripled to 6.2 million in the last 2.5 years. In Uruguay, small and medium-sized tech enterprises helped lift technology exports from US$ 50 million in 2000 to US$ 225 million in 2010.

Here in Italy there is little investment and a distinct lack in centralized planning, so we will soon be slipping below these countries on the scale and continue to suffer the related threats on economic development that this situation provokes.

The report is free to download here. It is as I said long and detailed, but the rankings are in chapter 1 if you just want to see where your own country sits.

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Top 10 Emerging Technologies

A couple of weeks ago the World Economic Forum published a document on its blog called “The top 10 emerging technologies for 2013”. I thought it might be interesting to have a look at what they say. The article can be read here. The comments are my own interpretation however.

World Economic Forum

1. Online Electric Vehicles.

About 100 years ago a scientist called Tesla demonstrated that electricity could be provided wirelessly. Today there is an idea that electric cars could drive while being recharged from electromagnetic fields created from cables under the road. The cars would need much smaller batteries of course.

The problem with this technology seems to be that it is difficult to measure how much power is taken, so difficult to bill for, nothing more than that. Take a look at this article about other ways of cutting pollution from transport systems.

2. 3D printing and remote manufacturing.

Much has been written and the technology undoubtedly carries advantages, but did you read my post about 3D printers potentially being used to make gun parts?

3. Self Healing Materials.

A great idea but this and other uses of nanotechnology and its production practices need to be regulated, as does the disposal of such materials. We don’t know enough about the effects upon human health as the recent report cited in another post on this blog demonstrates.

4. Energy Efficient Water Purification.

Must be a good thing. Some of Christopher’s thoughts on the issue here.

5. Carbon Dioxide conversion and use.

Geo-engineering offers the possibility of drawing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it underground, but this technology is extremely controversial. This article entitled Engineering a Solution to Global Warming gives an idea of some of the ethical debate surrounding such processes.

6. Enhanced nutrition to drive health.

Genetic modification of plants to make them more nutritional. Much has been written about the GM issue, it is certainly not as simple as it may sound. Great commercial interests are involved, as are problems of cross fertilization and non-reproducibility. See this article on the Bassetti Foundation website about the Vatican and its interests in the problem.

7. Remote sensing.

The buzz-phrase Smart City is all over nowadays. Have a look at this article for some ideas of how using sensors might improve urban life.

8. Precise drug delivery through nanoscale engineering.

Medicine is the area in which nanotechnology research shows its greatest potential. The problems of regulation still exist as brought up in the article above, but the possible advantages for society make this type of research extremely valuable.

9. Organic electronics and photovoltaics.

This article mentions solar panels made using fruit and vegetable juice instead of silicon, and the printing of circuits using organic materials is already a reality. Silicon is more efficient at the moment, but expensive, polluting and will eventually run out, but if scale is not a problem these solutions work well.

10. Fourth generation nuclear reactors and waste recycling.

Making nuclear energy cleaner and better is the goal. The questions of safety and sustainability as well as real cost are not raised however, again not an argument that can be expanded upon too much as it is extremely polarized, but there are cleaner and safer ways to produce electricity as the article about electricity generation cited above shows.

Well it looks like we got most of it covered at Technology Bloggers anyway, cutting edge as we are.